Michele Ezykowsky awoke in June 2006 to a phone call and words she’ll never forget.
A DUI crash had claimed her husband’s life.
“I thought it was a lie,” she said. “I couldn’t believe someone would call and say something so horrible.”
But it was true, the Latrobe woman soon learned.
And in the years since, Ezykowsky has tried to honor her husband Ryan’s memory by telling his story – one of hundreds that live within the names of those inscribed on a mobile memorial to DUI victims that was parked outside the Somerset Hospital on Tuesday.
“People don’t think this can happen to them. They think they are invincible,” Ezykowsky said, standing outside the Pennsylvania DUI Association’s “Moving Memorial.”
“My family is proof that it can happen, that it does happen.”
Ezykowsky and her daughters, Meah and Ryssa, were among dozens who visited the wall Tuesday.
Somerset County was a fitting place for the memorial, Twin Lakes Center coordinator Ronna Yablonski said.
“This memorial is here today because
we have to bring awareness to the
consequences of DUIs,” she said.
Among arrests involving those impaired by alcohol statewide, Somerset County, at an average blood alcohol level of .20 percent, ranked first in the state, she said.
“DUI deaths like these are 100 percent preventable,” she said, standing just a few feet from a tree filled with notes to lost loved ones.
“I miss you sis,” Tyler Faulkner wrote to a sister, Elizabeth Faulkner, he never met.
A DUI crash in Ohio took her life seven years ago.
Those who lost a loved one to DUI accidents wrote messages on paper angels for an evergreen tree that will be planted at Somerset County Technology Center as a permanent memorial, Yablonski said.
“It can serve as a permanent reminder of the consequences of driving under the influence – that it doesn’t just affect the lives claimed, but their families, too,” she added.
David Hurst is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/ tddavidhurst.