Rep Your Voice provides a platform for the representation of youth voice and promotes healthy expressions of life and community. Rep Your Voice is an initiative of the Nashville Prevention Partnership, which prevents substance abuse by connecting and uniting individuals, organizations and institutions.


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Since Then, Nothing is the Same

Cole KilgoreHope for the best, but prepare for the worst. That was the only thing playing through my mind. No one could have prepared me for what happened to Cole, what happened to my family.

I was only sixteen when I received the phone call that would change my life forever. It was June 4, 2011. My parents, my best friend and I had just arrived in Hilton Head, South Carolina, for a week-long, relaxing vacation. It was going to be the highlight of my summer. We didn’t even have time to unpack when the phone rang, and the voice on the other end of the line delivered the horrible news. My nineteen year old cousin, Cole, had been in a car accident, and the man he was with had already passed. My heart stopped, and I instantly got a sharp pain in my stomach. I had to get back to Tennessee. Cole needed me.

Back in Tennessee, hours before we had arrived at the beach, Cole had jumped into an old Chevy truck, with a driver that was under the influence of drugs and alcohol. From what I was told, Cole knew the driver was impaired but made the decision to get into the vehicle. The pair only drove a few miles down the road, but before they could make it back, the truck crashed into a guardrail and exploded. Cole was instantly covered in fuel and flames. About ten hours after the impact, Cole was dead. The flames had burned his body inside and out. The impaired man driving that truck not only took Cole’s life, he took mine as well. I have not, nor will ever be the same again.

After losing Cole, my personality changed quite a bit. I still find myself being a Debby Downer most days. Although I want to be that happy go-lucky-girl again, it is very difficult. I sometimes find it hard to enjoy being in a room with friends or family because I know Cole will never have that chance again. Every day is a struggle. The person I looked up to, the person that treated me like a little sister, the person that always looked after me, is gone. I have felt sadness, anger and a sense of loneliness in lieu of losing such a strong influence in my life. Cole was not in the crowd, cheering as I graduated high school. He will not be at my wedding or hold my children. Memories are all I have left of Cole, all because one man made the choice to drive under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

Whatever plans my sixteen-year-old self had, were lost that day. So now, at nineteen, I have made the choice to dedicate my time to prevent as many drunk driving accidents as I can. I wish to spread Cole’s story as far as it can reach and touch as many lives as possible, so that no one has to feel the pain that my family and I have felt.

By Jessie Clark of Dickson, Tennessee. Jessie is currently a freshman at Nashville State Community College, where she is studying nutrition.