Lubbock, TX (KCBD) - Distracted driving. It is what a South Plains family calls an epidemic, one that hits close to home. One year ago, 17-year-old Alex Brown made a decision to text and drive which her parents say cost her her life.
The Browns never realized tens of thousands of people would hear Alex's story. They share it to keep other families from having to go through what they have had to.
"I knew something was wrong and I had to find her," recalls Jeanne Brown.
Alex was late to school. She didn't answer her phone. "I didn't even recognize the truck. I went past it and had to back up." Jeanne jumped out of her car and started looking for Alex. She was laying in the field.
"I dialed 911, but it was like my fingers couldn't push the right buttons. God, please help me I can't push the right numbers," said Jeanne Brown who prayed and watched as paramedics worked frantically to take care of Alex's badly battered body.
But her injuries were too severe. Hours later at the hospital Jeanne and Johnny Mac had to say their goodbyes.
Her friends were devastated, but worked to keep her memory alive. Alex was the school mascot and on track to graduate top in her class.
The day she died, her parents decided to do what they think she would have wanted. Johnny Mac looked at Jeanne in the hospital and told her that they needed to put Alex's truck on a trailer and go show kids so they know.
"Alex made a bad choice and we want people to understand it can happen to anyone," said Jeanne.
Less than three weeks after Alex's death, the Browns started to share her story and show her truck. They asked people to sign the B.U.S.T. pledge, a promise you make with yourself to stop texting and driving that KCBD NewsChannel 11's Sports Director Pete Christy started after Alex died.
"What gets me chocked up is not telling the story so much but seeing faces in schools. It is like looking at her class," said Johnny Mac Brown. The Browns urge people of all ages, even kids who don't drive yet, to buckle up and stop texting.
Johnny Mac thought they would talk to a dozen or so schools and it would die. They call the response over the last year overwhelming. The Browns have talked to almost 30,000 people at 100 different events.
They've have shared their story with almost 30,000 people at nearly 100 events. That number does not include the television interviews and the national audience Alex's story has reached through the Oprah Show. The Browns were part of Oprah's No Phone Zone Day show and featured in her public service announcement. Even former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee signed the B.U.S.T. pledge on his show.
"There are times I think about that day and wonder if there is something I could have done?" asks Jeanne. "You have got to stop yourself. You can't dwell on it or it will drive you crazy," said Johnny Mac.
The Browns tell people that Alex thought she was invincible. Just before her accident, Alex got a ticket for not wearing her seat belt. "She said it's not going to happen to me."
Jeanne left her full time job in the classroom, but still teaches. "The more educated kids are the better choices they will make."
Their message is frank and to the point. They tell kids if they are going to text and drive to be sure to have health insurance and they even ask them what kind of coffin they would like. They also tell the kids they need to leave their parents a list of the people they would like to have carry their caskets at their funeral.
The Browns will continue to share Alex's story as long as someone listens and hope drivers will make better and safer choices.
Even though Alex is gone, Jeanne and Johnny Mac know she would be proud of what they are doing.
©2010 KCBD NewsChannel 11. All rights reserved.
B.U.S.T. - Buckle Up & Stop Texting. That's the message that NewsChannel 11 and Sports Director Pete Christy are challenging high school students with all over the South Plains. The area wide public safety campaign challenges high school students is to promise buckle up and to stop texting while driving.
If you want Pete to challenge your school, you can contact him at the station (806) 744-1414.