I arrived at my office in midtown Manhattan on Friday morning when my phone rang. It was one of my best friends from Buffalo, so I answered the call and made a joke or two before she said anything. After a few moments of silence, she simply said, “Jeff,” and I knew something was wrong.
“There’s been an accident in Lancaster,” she said. “A kid was killed.”
A million and one thoughts crept through my mind in a second, and now, I was the silent one while she told me the details.
Lancaster, New York is a small suburb, an East Coast type of town where if something happens Thursday night, everyone knows about it Friday morning. And in this case, it proved to be true again. It’s the type of town where if there were a drunk driving accident and an innocent teenager was killed as a result, you could quite possibly know all those involved.
She gave me the details of the terrible accident and after I hung up the phone, I reminisced about my time spent in Lancaster during my youth.
According to an article in The Buffalo News, Bryce W. Buchholz, 14, was killed while riding his bike home. Michael C. Ettipio, 23, a former classmate with me at Lancaster High School, slammed into him with his SUV and his BAC was almost three times the legal limit for driving. Ettipio fled from the scene and followed by a neighbor, where he was ultimately apprehended by police.
Growing up in Lancaster, by many accounts, it’s a typical suburban experience. I was never quite fond of the town, and as soon as college rolled around, I moved to the city of Buffalo and never looked back. I would visit from time to time, but as the years passed in college, similar stories would be told to me as I relaxed in my dorm.
“Hey, did you hear what happened?” messages would pop up on AIM or there would be a call, detailing how another person got a DWI, overdosed, or was in an accident involving alcohol. My senior year of high school at Lancaster, at least 30 kids went to rehab or had to drop out due to drug or alcohol dependency.
I’m not saying that I don’t drink; to be honest, I’ve been drinking since middle school. But to be even more honest, I have a message to Lancaster, New York, and all the similar places throughout the United States; it’s time to grow up. It’s time to move on. It’s time to make responsible decisions, because enough is enough.
I don’t really think that six or seven beers at a local pub are worth a life taken, a life ruined, and countless families filled with strife for the rest of their lives. Rest in peace Bryce, everyone will miss you, buddy. Ally and I used to ride that same stretch of road on our bikes when we were in middle and high school, and given the demographics of Lancaster, I suppose we were just the lucky ones.