Voice of Victims: Cherry Chalker

Five seconds. Your life can be forever changed in as little as five seconds. Shattered…and no matter how hard you try, you can’t put the pieces back together in the same way. Little pieces of you are lost in the process and you get caught between who you were and whom someone else’s choice made you.

That choice was made for me on the afternoon of February 13, 2011, when a drunk driver ran a stop sign and nearly ended my life. Spending the next eight weeks healing, alternating between anger at what had been done to me and terror that one wrong move could finish the job, I came to understand that I was being consumed by the moment. I needed to let go of who I was before and make peace with my changed reality.

Cherry and her cousin, Belinda. Taken a month after the crash.

I survived. I “walked” away from injuries that should have killed or paralyzed me. But I did not walk away unchanged. Because a part of me will never really let go, never move completely forward but always live in that moment, I must will myself to not hang onto my anger, my resentment, my fear. I have to make that choice to accept…every day. Anything else is just another victory for the drunk.

With the support of MADD Victim Services, the advocates I’ve encountered there, as well as the other survivors I’ve met, I’ve found those who help me deal with my broken, changed reality. People who understand my struggles and who share my grief for what was lost. We walk together because while our grief is as diverse as the sands on a beach, it’s roots are the same.

Cherry and her sister-in-law

This was taken at my brother-in-law’s wedding.  I was due for a haircut the week of the crash and by the time the wedding rolled around, I was 6+ weeks overdue for a cut.  My hairdresser knew I was bothered by it and couldn’t get a normal cut (since I couldn’t be without the neck brace for any reason), so he came to the house and did a dry trim off the visible parts of the hair.  When the neck brace came off, I had a nice little “ducktail” going on in the back.


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