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Senior’s family impacted by texting, driving

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April 9, 2016, afternoon
Senior Maddie Shaffer’s aunt, Emma Shaffer, and 12-year-old cousin, Tita, had gone out to cheer practice and to meet up with friends. Her other cousin, Jimmy, wanted to stay home.

They were only supposed to be gone for about two hours, but once it reached the third hour, 10-year-old Jimmy called his dad, James, telling him that his mom and sister weren’t home yet.

That’s when Maddie received the text from James asking her if she would watch over Jimmy until they returned.

8:17 p.m.
The Denton Police Department received a call reporting a head-on collision on U.S. 377. A Nissan headed southbound crossed into the northbound lane, colliding into a Volvo — the car Emma and Tita were in.

James, who was in Pennsylvania on a business trip, began to track Emma’s phone. When he realized that they had been in the same spot on the road for about 30 minutes, he started getting worried. Maddie’s dad decided to stop by the location to see what was wrong.

A driver who was texting had swerved into the oncoming lane, killing herself and Tita on impact, sending Emma and the driver’s passenger to critical care. Later that night, they both passed away.

9:00 p.m.
Maddie was still unaware of exactly what had happened. She only knew that there had been an accident. As she was taking care of Jimmy, she recalls two officers coming to the door, asking for her aunt or her uncle.

“I figured that police wouldn’t go to the house for a minor accident,” Maddie said.Submitted

When Maddie informed them that neither of them were home, they asked her for their contact information, then left.

Maddie asked her mom what was going on, so her mom called explaining that there had been an accident.

“I feel like no one understands, truly, how it can impact your life,” Maddie said. “[Texting and driving] is incredibly dangerous. It’s not worth it.”

9:15 p.m.
Maddie’s mother picked her and Jimmy up to go to their house. Then, Maddie received a text from a cousin on her mom’s side of the family that read, “I’m sorry for your loss.”

Confused, Maddie asked her what she was talking about. When her cousin apologized and said she must have gotten the story mixed up, Maddie knew. No one gets a death mixed up. When her dad came home, that’s when he told her. She recalls the moment.

“It was heartbreaking and traumatic,” Maddie said. “It’s the worst experience that not only myself, but other families have had to go through also. You can’t really put that type of feeling into words.”

April 10, 10:00 a.m.
Maddie said the following morning they had to figure out a way to tell Jimmy that his mother and sister weren’t coming back home. But when Maddie came to visit a few hours later, she didn’t expect Jimmy’s reaction.

“He was acting positive, hugging everyone and being supportive,” Maddie said.

Surprised, Maddie asked him why he was acting that way.

“I’m being positive and I’m smiling because I know that they’re in a better place and they’re no longer hurting anymore,” he had said. “So there’s no reason to be sad because they’re with God.”

April 16, 5:30 p.m.
A memorial service celebrating Emma and Tita’s lives was held at Liberty Christian School. English IV teacher Wendi Spurgeon, a close friend of Emma’s, attended the service. She said that the fourth grade class performed a song and a celebration of life video montage was played. Emma’s other son, Sergio Azeula, also sang a Beatles compilation of “Blackbird” and “Yesterday.”

According to Spurgeon, Sergio had said that Emma loved the song “Blackbird” when he was a little boy and she always wanted him to sing it for her. However, he wouldn’t sing it because it was too sad to him. Spurgeon said that now Sergio wishes he would have sang it more often with her.

Hundreds of people showed up for the service.

“It was probably the saddest thing that I have been to in my entire life,” Spurgeon said.

Emma was an active member at Liberty Christian and frequently volunteered at the school, designing bulletin boards and helping out where needed. Spurgeon thinks that Emma spent as much time at Liberty Christian doing volunteer work as her kids did going to school there.

“Emma was one of the most devoted mothers I had ever seen,” Spurgeon said. “She would help anybody out.”

Spurgeon also recalls how bubbly Tita was.

“Tita was a beautiful child inside and out,” Spurgeon said. “She was very charming and talked all the time.”

• • •

In only four states, Texas, Montana, Arizona and Missouri, it is still legal under certain circumstances to text and drive.

Texas House Bill 62 was brought to the floor again, meaning texting and driving could be banned statewide if the Senate approves. The bill, which was filed in 2014, has tried to pass multiple times by Former House Speaker Tom Craddick.

After the recent crash on March 29 where a pickup truck, who acknowledged that he had been texting, collided with a church minibus, killing 13, many think that this bill will pass.

What Maddie and her family don’t understand is why state legislatures are still against it. Maddie said that their job is to protect people and serve the public, but to her, voting against it is putting people’s lives at risk.

“I just wish people could sit in the lives of the ones who are affected by this,” Maddie said. “They feel bad, but they don’t truly understand the feeling.”

If the bill does get passed, Maddie said that it needs to be enforced immediately and effectively. She said that if the ban had been passed two years ago, then her family might not have been torn apart.

“I can’t help but think that if something were to have been done already, then I would get to go over there and hug my 12-year-old cousin and say hello to my aunt again,” Maddie said.
She has now become a huge advocate against using her phone while driving.

“Before the accident, I was the typical teenage driver, always speeding with your music really loud, and I used to text and drive,” Maddie said.

She often sees billboard ads that read “Your text isn’t worth your life.” Now that her family has been impacted by texting and driving, she agrees.

“I shouldn’t be distracted because there are enough distractions already,” Maddie said.

Maddie said that her friends occasionally text, but she’s started to notice that when they reach for their phone they’ll remember what Maddie’s family went through and decide against it. She said that though they haven’t fully stopped, it is progress and she’s thankful for that.

“It’s not only saving their life, it could potentially be saving someone else’s,” Maddie said.

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Senior’s family impacted by texting, driving