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Candlelight vigil honors traffic fatality victims in Carroll County: ‘To remember is what makes us alive’

Candles burning in remembrance at the Ascension Episcopal Church in Westminster on Thursday night never should have been lit.

“Every single one of those candles lit could have been a preventable crash,” said Cpl. James Brooks of the Mount Airy Police Department.

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Brooks was one of many members of Carroll County law enforcement at the 13th annual “I Will Remember You” remembrance ceremony to honor those who died in traffic accidents. Local police and Catherine’s Cause presented the event, allowing relatives of those who have died to reflect and light candles in memory of their loved ones.

Phil and Cindy Mullikin started Catherine’s Cause in 2007 to fight to prevent drunken driving and, in the process, honor their daughter, Phil Mullikin said. Catherine Anne Mullikin was killed by a drunken driver Nov. 28, 1998, when she was just 20 years old.

Brooks volunteers with Catherine’s Cause, sharing his story with offenders in the hopes that they will think twice before getting behind the wheel. Catherine’s Cause holds forums for offenders in Carroll County who have been ordered by a judge to attend and hear victim impact stories, according to Phil Mullikin.

Brooks lost his brother-in-law Dan Dziadik at 29 years old on Aug. 22, 2015, in Connecticut. A vehicle driven by a person under the influence of drugs and alcohol struck and killed Dziadik when he was on the way to see a movie with a friend, Brooks said.

Dziadik had just married Brooks’ sister about a year before and left behind a 3-year-old son and a 10-month-old daughter, according to Brooks.

A portion of the 15 candles, representing each of the individuals who lost their life in the last 12 months in traffic accidents in or related to Carroll County, during a remembrance ceremony at the Church of the Ascension in Westminster on Thursday, Dec. 5. The event was hosted by Catherine's Cause, whose founders, Philip and Cynthia Mullikin, lost their daughter Catherine to a drunk driver in 1998.
A portion of the 15 candles, representing each of the individuals who lost their life in the last 12 months in traffic accidents in or related to Carroll County, during a remembrance ceremony at the Church of the Ascension in Westminster on Thursday, Dec. 5. The event was hosted by Catherine's Cause, whose founders, Philip and Cynthia Mullikin, lost their daughter Catherine to a drunk driver in 1998. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

“I loved Dan like a brother,” Brooks said after the candle lighting. “A tragedy can also affect us that wear the badge.”

Brooks and other officers took turns escorting relatives of the deceased to about 40 candles at the front of Holy Cross Hall. By chance, Brooks was partnered with a friend of his.

Brooke Hagerty of Silver Run lost her son Zachary Pressman on Feb. 1, 2016. He was 24 years old.

Pressman was traveling with a friend who was supposed to be the designated driver, or DD, but was not sober, according to Hagerty.

“He did not deserve to die at the hands of his DD,” Hagerty said prior to the candle lighting.

After her son’s death, Hagerty found a bereavement group and began volunteering with Catherine’s Cause. At her first forum, the speaker did not show and Hagerty was asked to share her son’s story.

“He was full of life,” Hagerty said. “He always had a smile on his face.”

Escorted by Brooks, Hagerty walked forward to light a candle for her son.

“It is completely and totally 100% preventable,” Hagerty said afterward.

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Brooke Hagerty of Silver Run lights a candle in memory of her son Zachary Pressman, during a remembrance ceremony at the Church of the Ascension in Westminster on Thursday, Dec. 5. The event was organized by Catherine's Cause, an anti drunk driving organization.
Brooke Hagerty of Silver Run lights a candle in memory of her son Zachary Pressman, during a remembrance ceremony at the Church of the Ascension in Westminster on Thursday, Dec. 5. The event was organized by Catherine's Cause, an anti drunk driving organization. (Brian Krista/Carroll County Times)

Lt. Rebecca Bosley, commander of the Maryland State Police Westminster Barrack, read quotes about the deceased as Carroll County Sheriff Jim DeWees read the names.

The South Carroll High School Vocal Ensemble performed “I Will Remember You," Catherine Mullikin’s class song.

As people lit candles, they took a rose and ornament from the table.

Among those honored were a hardworking doctor and father to six daughters; a 4-year-old who loved horses and butterflies; a Vietnam War veteran who died along with his teenage daughter; a beautician and mother who gave free haircuts to the elderly; a young man who was preparing to be a father; and many more.

The ceremony recognized those who died as far back as 1992. Fifteen people died in traffic accidents in Carroll County from October 2018 to October 2019, though not all of them were alcohol-related, according to Cindy Mullikin.

The Rev. Dr. Melissa Rudolph, of The North Carroll Cooperative Parish, offered words of solace.

“To remember is what makes us alive,” Rudolph said.

She encouraged the 60-some people present to be stewards of pain and to sow their tears so that they might one day reap joy.

At the close of the event, DeWees turned to the Mullikins.

“You’re doing an awful lot to keep drugged and drunk drivers off our roadways," DeWees said. “You’ve taken a personal tragedy and worked tirelessly to make sure that Cathy did not die in vain.”

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