With the lights dimmed in The Portico on Thursday night, the long table draped in white linen at the head of the Westminster conference and gala space slowly came to blaze with candlelight, each lit taper illuminating an era — a year carved in wood — and standing in for a name.
“Patricia Cohn, Jan. 25, 1997,” Westminster Police Chief Jeff Spaulding called out. “Daniel W. Wood, July 18, 2018.”
Some 49 names in all, all people who died in accidents.
This was the 12th annual “I Will Remember You” Remembrance Ceremony of Catherine’s Cause, a nonprofit organization with the Community Foundation of Carroll County that raises awareness of the effects of drunken driving. The event honors those killed in accidents, 16 of which were people who died between October 2017 and October 2018.
With each name called out by Spaulding, acting as master of ceremonies, a law enforcement officer would escort that person’s family member or members to the table, where they would light a candle. The officer would salute, while another read about the person honored with the flame.
Benjamin Alden Sochrin, killed July 23, 2008, “lived his life to the fullest. His laughter and beautiful smile was contagious to all. Unfortunately, he only lived to be 20, due to another person’s mistake on the road.”
Katlynn Elizabeth Bossler, killed July 19, 2009, who “was looking forward to the time when she would be able to drive a big Chevy truck. She was struck by a drunk driver at the age of 15.”
And Catherine Anne Mullikin, killed Nov. 28, 1998, when she was just 20 years old.
“I know what so many of you are going through,” Catherine’s father, Phil Mullikin, told those gathered in an opening speech. “That’s why we do this. To help celebrate a life.”
It certainly felt that way to Bill Minor, of Monkton, whose son, Gregory, was killed in a motorcycle accident on Sept. 17, 2017.
“It’s a wonderful way to remember those that we’ve lost in CC. It’s very touching as a parent, it makes you cry even though you are celebrating their life,” Minor said. “It just brings it all back and shows they are still with you in soul.”
Catherine’s Cause was founded in 2007 by Mullikin and his wife, Cynthia, to push back against drunk driving, holding forums for court-ordered DUI offenders in addition to the remembrance ceremony.
But it is the remembrance ceremony that feels so powerful to so many people, according to Cynthia Mullikin.
“I think we’ve done a lot in our 12 years,” she said. “We’re changing lives, we’re helping people, and that’s a good thing. Our Cathy would be right in there with us and that makes me feel good.”
But losing a loved one is never over and never easy, Phil Mullikin told the crowd at the outset; even as life goes on, grief persists in its way.
“ I don’t know how to tell you to get through it. There’s no secret, there’s no special way,” he said. “For us it’s been 20 years and every once in awhile, when I’m alone and there’s nobody around, I break down and cry for my daughter. I miss her.”