Heartbreaking Tale of Five New York Boys Lost Too Soon in an Avoidable Accident
Saturday, November 23, 1996, is the date that an entire Upstate New York community was brought to its knees, and two decades later, people still tremble when they think back on that day.
Rocky Monzo was 19 and the daddy of a toddler girl. Tommy Monzo, Rocky's baby brother, was only 15 and was passionately excited about the car he was restoring. 21-year-old Dean Palmo had just gotten a job as a groundskeeper. Dave DeCrease and Chris Caisse were both 16 and had their entire lives ahead of them.
In the early morning hours of November 23, 1996, after having partied all night, all five boys climbed into a car that reached terrifying speeds as it sped down the streets of my suburban community.
And then, just like that, an inconceivable tragedy happened. Five young men were dead. The car hit multiple trees before it flipped and burst into flames just on the outskirts of town, killing all of the boys. Five young lives were gone in a blink.
Until the day that I draw my last breath, I will remember the crippling horror and grief felt by my little community of Scotia, a suburb of Albany in Upstate New York.
These weren't just some boys with a tragic story that I'd read about in the newspaper, these were boys that I knew. For a few years, my family lived next door to Dean's mom and his kid sister was in my grade at school. Dave and Chris tagged along to my church's Wednesday night youth group several times.
My classmate and buddy Andrew was supposed to be in the car that night, but a girl pled for him not to get in it and, because of her, he is alive today. Andrew's life was completely shattered and I'm sure he's still haunted to this day. It's been nearly 30 years and I still reach out to Andrew's dad from time to time, sending messages to Andrew through him. My heart aches for Andrew. Still.
I've been teased and mocked over the years for my unwavering stance against drunk driving but I've never cared. I can still hear the sirens, the wailing of tears, and the screams of stunned horror from a grief-stricken community. I still feel sick to my stomach when I think about that awful night nearly 30 years ago and the fact that two brothers now lay side by side, in a single coffin.
If you'll be drinking someplace other than at home, please, I'm begging you, coordinate with a friend or two so that if you need a ride home you've got someone who will pick you up and a backup if your first call isn't available. I don't want anyone who loves you to ever have to look back and have memories of you like the memories I still carry of the night that Rocky, Tommy, Dean, Dave, and Chris lost their lives in a completely avoidable accident.
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