by Lori Bodnar
Plainfield, Illinois, USA
I grew up in West Chicago. Like most teenagers I had a small wild streak. I didn’t do drugs but I had found other ways to “get high”. I would drag race through local streets at high speeds, tossing debris (tomatoes, chicken nuggets covered in sauce, full sodas) at oncoming vehicles. I was a holy terror on and off road. This led to getting in trouble in school, at home and work.
One day in 1987 I was arrested (for assault, not surprising, huh?) I was taken to the police station — and not for the first time either. A local sheriff’s officer, Deputy Norbie, sat down in the booking room with me and asked me how long I wanted to live. He told me about other kids who had killed themselves by doing drugs and doing other stupid things. And then he told me that he thought I would be one of the next people he saw in the morgue.
After I had been processed he came to my cell and said “we’re going for a ride”. That night he took me to the house of a woman whose son had been killed in a drinking and driving accident two days before. He asked her to tell me about him and she did. He could have been me. I cried and asked her to stop when she started telling me about going to the morgue to identify what had been left of his body, but she wouldn’t. The officer thanked her and we left.
By the time I got back to the police station I was doubting that the woman had told me the truth — and I was dumb enough to say so. So the officer pulled out the boy’s file. He was 16 years old and went to the same school I did. He showed me a picture of the car and the pictures of the two other people killed in the accident. I believed. He kept pushing me to admit that what I did was stupid and dangerous, and finally I did.
I went home that night and couldn’t sleep. For months I was haunted by what I had seen and heard. But thanks to Deputy Norbie, I believed. And I changed my life.