The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

December 16, 2013

DUI Victims memorial serves as somber reminder

SUNBURY — SUNBURY — George Geisler still remembers the first time he had to notify a family that their loved one had died.

The former police officer who now works as the director of the eastern office the Pennsylvania DUI Association, said the 18-year-old man had been out drinking with friends the night before his high school graduation. He was killed in a car crash and Geisler had to notify his parents that their only child was dead.

“It’s the worst thing you can do as a police officer, in my opinion,” he said.

Now, Geisler through his work at the PA DUI Association, hopes to bring awareness to the dangers of driving under the influence, maybe saving some families from having to be notified their loved ones were killed.

PA DUI’s Moving Memorial stopped at the Northumberland County courthouse in Sunbury Monday morning before heading to the Danville Middle School in the afternoon. The wall is a moving tribute to more than 2,000 Pennsylvanians killed at the hands of drivers under the influence. The permanent memorial garden, dedicated in 2003, is located in Harrisburg, at PA DUI’s headquarters Geisler said.

“This helps families mourn the loss (of that person),” he said. “Especially during the holiday season ... There’s always going to be that empty chair at the table where that person sat.”

In 2012, 404 people were killed in substance-related crashes. The memorial adds names to the wall after hearing reports of these deaths, from media or police reports or from family members, Geisler said.

The wall includes people in Pennsylvania killed as well as Pennsylvanians killed in other states, Geisler said.

A family members memorial service was held Thursday at the memorial garden in Harrisburg, Geisler said, which brings together families to talk about their loved ones and how driving under the influence has impacted their families.

“There have been (perpetrators) who have said, ‘I’ll never do it again,’ after hearing them speak,” Geisler said.

Northumberland County District Attorney Anthony Rosini spoke at the moving memorial Monday morning and expressed support for PA DUI’s mission to put an end to deaths from driving under the influence, which have been on the decline statewide.

“There has been some progress,” he said. “But there is still much work to be done.”

Rosini noted that “unfortunately, there are some names from our area,” on the wall.

Geisler said the key is not completely eliminating alcohol, but making sure people aren’t getting behind the wheel once they’ve been drinking at things like holiday parties this time of year.

“We’re not prohibitionist,” he said. “But if you’re going to drink, do it at home or don’t get behind the wheel.”

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