Why We’re Here: Joshua A. Guillén Lopez

Joshua A. Guillén Lopez was his mama’s world.  An only son, he was a hard worker who started working the day he turned 16, paying his own cell phone bill, internet, and giving his mom money to help with water or electric bills.  He was a generous kid, often taking his mom and/or others out to eat too. His mom, Carmen Lopez, says, “He was responsible and my emotional support while I was going through a hard time in my life. He always gave me, and others, good advice, at such a young age.” She says Joshua had a gift for lifting people up. “If he realized you were sad or down, he always knew how to make you feel special. He would hug you and tell you, ‘you are beautiful today – tu estas linda hoy.'”

But he was also a goofball who loved to make people laugh. He once asked Carmen if she knew who Morgan Freeman was as they were watching TV together. “Is he one of the disciples?,” he asked her. She busted out laughing.

He always tried to make people feel special. He called the ladies, “Miss Universe” or “JLo.” And his goofy, caring side was just what one friend needed who was having suicidal thoughts. He asked her, “Why would you do that if no is going to really care?” She ended up laughing so hard because of the way he looked at life that she never thought about ending her life again. He just had a knack for understanding people and what they needed.

He hoped to one day be a Social Worker or a Nurse, but had decided to start his career in service to his country by joining the United States Navy. He had already been sworn in and was scheduled for departure on February 22, 2017.

But on Saturday, October 22, 2016, he went out with best friend, Samia Lucas to celebrate his 18th birthday. When Joshua didn’t come home that night, Carmen started getting worried. She knew it was a special night, but was getting frustrated that her son was abusing the opportunity to be out of the house so late. She started calling him at 3am, but got no response. She tried Samia’s phone, but still no answer. She sent him a text letting him know she was unhappy about him being so late and not responding. But still… nothing. As she waited to hear from him, minutes became hours until she heard an awful knock on the door. “The moment I peeked out the peephole and saw the police sillhouettes, I knew something was wrong. But not in a million years, did I expect what was about to happen.”

“‘Joshua is no longer with us.'” Carmen says, “These words bang in my head every single day like sharp knives cutting through my heart and skin.”

At 1:35am on Sunday, October 23, 2016, Joshua was in the passenger seat of Samia’s car as they sat at the intersection of 101st Airborne Division Parkway and Trenton Road in Clarksville, Tennessee, when the light turned green. But as they entered the intersection, a repeat drunk driver going 77mph with a .127 BAC ran the red light and hit them on the driver’s side of the vehicle, dragging the car 300 yards. Joshua was killed instantly. Samia was airlifted to Vanderbilt Hospital where she also died.

Carmen says her world and her life stopped that night. She lives in a constant nightmare waiting for someone to pinch her and tell her it’s all been a joke or a bad dream and that when she opens her eyes she’ll see Joshua and his beautiful smile waiting to give her a hug.

Her first holiday without him was Thanksgiving. She remembers walking to the dinner table and then turning around to start vomiting and crying because he wasn’t there to enjoy food with them like he used to. She kept thinking, “How can I give thanks if my son was killed?” She says there are no more holidays – no Christmas, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, birthdays. They used to love to travel together. But there is no more of that either. “I don’t know how I’m going to survive and how I’m going to live out the rest of my days with that pain in my heart and the pictures from the crime scene burned into my memory.”

Carmen adds, “It has been almost 2 years…I’m mad, sad, disappointed…I haven’t been able to go back to work because every morning is a struggle. I know I need to learn to live without him and as the day goes by, I get better. But the next day is the same thing all over… Joshua and Samia with their whole lives ahead of them just had it ripped away because some irresponsible man had too much fun at a karaoke bar.”

When asked what she would say in memory of her only son, Carmen sums it up with, “Joshua was responsible, honest, caring, and a fighter that knew that nothing is free in life and one has to work hard for what we have.  He is the best son a mother can ask for.”