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Families remember those killed on county roads

Margie Spence lights a candle in memory of her son Devin Spence, accompanied by Devin's father Michael and Hampstead Police Officer Robert Swartz during Thursday's 7th Annual "I'll Remember You" Remembrance Ceremony hosted by Catherine's Cause and the Carroll County law enforcement community at St. John's Portico.
Margie Spence lights a candle in memory of her son Devin Spence, accompanied by Devin's father Michael and Hampstead Police Officer Robert Swartz during Thursday's 7th Annual "I'll Remember You" Remembrance Ceremony hosted by Catherine's Cause and the Carroll County law enforcement community at St. John's Portico. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

Capt. James DeWees, of the Maryland State Police, read off the roll call of the dead at a remembrance ceremony on Thursday night while Alexandria Mullikin spoke about the joy each brought to the world. She paused only briefly at the third name: her sister, Catherine "Cathy" Mullikin, who "never knew a stranger."
Families who lost loved ones on the roads of Carroll County and representatives from every law enforcement agency operating in the area came forward with each name read to light candles in memory of those killed.
"We are here this evening to remember, celebrate and honor all who lost their lives," said DeWees.
The 7th Annual Remembrance Ceremony was presented by Catherine's Cause and the law enforcement community at St. John's Portico in Westminster to remember those who died in automobile accidents, regardless of cause, and to draw attention to the tragic consequences of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Fifteen people lost their lives in fatal collisions from October 2012 to October 2013 and all were recognized, as well as victims from previous years whose families wished to participate. In all, 29 names were read.
"This room has more pain in it than I can really think about," said Phil Mullikin, who founded Catherine's Cause with his wife Cindy Mullikin.
The Rev. Melissa Rudolph had some advice for families on how to carry on in spite of the pain. She said by doing good in the world, those grieving can "be a miracle" for others. And, by speaking the name of the deceased, they bring the lost loved one into that miracle.
"We don't let it [tragedy] cripple us, but use it to bring about something beautiful in the community," said Rudolph. "Remind people that everything that is pure and just cannot be robbed, but will go on forever."
Rudolph pointed to Cindy and Phil Mullikin as an example. When their daughter was killed 15 years ago at age 20, they choose to find ways to save lives.
It happened on Black Friday - "a day aptly named in our family" said Phil Mullikin.
After coming to accept that their daughter was gone, the couple became involved with Mothers Against Drunk Driving as a way to honor Cathy and try to prevent more tragedies like the one they were enduring.
However, MADD reorganized in 2006 and pulled out of Carroll County. The couple decided to carry on their work without a national sponsor. They formed Catherine's Cause and worked with the court system to continue counseling those charged with driving under the influence. Catherine's Cause speakers now address offenders six times a year.
"We took the bull by the horns and shook it a little bit," said Mullikin.
He said it never gets any easier to tell the story of his daughter's death, which he does often. But he takes some solace in the fact that deaths due to alcohol seem to be decreasing slightly in the county. There were 15 fatal collisions this year, compared to 17 deaths during the same time period the previous year. Although the figures provided do not break out the deaths due to drugs or alcohol, Mullikin said he has received information that those causes are on the decline.
"Every tear we have shed is worth it if we can save just one life," said Mullikin.
Although Phil Mullikin calls himself the speechmaker, he said his wife Cindy is the one who puts her "entire heart" into the effort to reduce deaths on the roads of Carroll County.
"We do it because it absolutely has to be done," he said.
Cheryl Hammond lost her daughter, 19-year-old Jessica Belknap, in 2011. She began telling her story almost immediately in hopes that it might inspire better choices in drivers.
"We don't always think of the ramifications of the choices we make," said Hammond. "We need to take care of each other and love each other."
She said if people truly loved each other, they wouldn't think of risking the life of another.
"Life is too precious and important to risk," said Hammond.

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