Out of our darkest times comes a glimmer of hope.
Out of the darkest times of Brenda Hall’s life came a glimmer of hope that what happened to her husband would not happen to anyone else.
Hall’s eyes will never be happy again. That is what she said recently at her Huntsville home. She described life with her husband, Chris, before the accident that changed everything.
“Our life was perfect. That’s not glamorizing the past, just the reality. We were both college instructors and had our health and jobs we loved. We looked forward to Monday morning. Everything this life has to offer, we had,” Hall said, a tear sliding down her face.
It was a sunny morning in November 2005. Chris Hall was traveling the same two-lane highway he took to work every day. A woman who had been drinking all night and was holding a bottle of vodka fell asleep at the wheel and hit Hall’s vehicle at full speed. She was a repeat DUI offender.
“He was absolutely the finest person I’ve ever known, kind and smart and gentle and funny. He was the best, and it was heaven on Earth. No problems large or small, and that’s the truth,” Hall said.
Chris Hall’s neck was broken in three places. Trapped in the car, he tried to turn the radio off but couldn’t move. He tried to get up, but he couldn’t. He thought the car was crushing him and didn’t realize he was paralyzed. He started having trouble breathing and ironically heard about his accident on the radio.
“He lived with quadriplegia for over a decade – total paralysis. He was 54 and in excellent health when he was hit. Suddenly, he could not move and was in chronic pain. He never, ever complained; he was the most accepting person,” Hall said.
The Halls began volunteering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). The statistics on drunken driving are scary.
Pamela Morton, State Victim Services coordinator with MADD, spoke of how MADD fights drunken driving, especially during times of celebration like Christmas and New Year’s.
“We increase public awareness and knowledge of the problem, and we do interviews to air before New Year’s Eve and Christmas parties. We participate in road blocks and get the word out. We want people to have a good time, but be safe and choose a nondrinking driver before the first sip. Uber is available, so there is no reason you should drink and drive,” Morton said.
Morton spoke highly of the commitment Chris and Brenda Hall made to MADD, and how they always participated in Victim Impact Panels and other MADD events. The Halls shared their story with passion and humility.
“Chris and Brenda were so committed. From the time he had the crash, to the last few years, you could barely hear him. The microphone almost had to be in his mouth, but he never missed a chance to tell his story,” Morton said. “It’s a testament to who he was, and Brenda’s strength is amazing, to be by Chris and his big heart the entire time. They made saving lives part of their lives. After he was hurt and in so much pain, he still had the drive to save lives.”
Morton strongly believes Chris and Brenda Hall saved lives through their story, and through the love they had for each other.
“I don’t see how anyone could hear their story, or see the love they had for each other and their drive to save lives, and not be impacted,” Morton said.
There were 10,497 deaths in 2016 – 29 each day – related to drunken driving, along with 290,000 injuries per year, according to MADD. Drunken driving remains the No. 1 cause of death on our roads.
MADD’s campaign to prevent drunken and drugged driving can be summarized by four strategies:
- High-visibility law enforcement — High police visibility, such as with sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols, is a life saver. It makes us change our behavior.
- Ignition interlock devices — Blow-before-you-go devices are designed to prevent offenders from driving drunk.
- Autonomous vehicle technology — The vehicle takes control, senses another car and slows down, turning the car into the cure to combat drunken driving.
- Driver alcohol detection system for safety — You put your hands on the steering wheel, and the car will detect if your blood alcohol is above the legal limit.
“Young people, really anyone, need to realize the decision we make today impacts tomorrow. Plan for holiday parties; designate a nondrinking driver,” Morton said. “No one gets up in the morning and says: ‘Who am I going to kill today?’ This past Christmas day, I got a call from a mother whose 21-year-old son was killed by a drunken driver. She told me she was at the cemetery. We shared breakfast that day. Her life will never be the same. The man who killed her son was a three-time DUI offender.”
Brenda Hall will forever be thankful for the support MADD gave her and Chris.
“MADD sent a volunteer in 2006 after Chris’ accident. Starting in June of that year, Chris and I started volunteering with the organization. We spoke at their victim impact panel for repeat DUI offenders where they hear the stories of victims,” Hall said.
Volunteering with MADD was more than doing good for the Halls. It was a life mission. Brenda Hall remembers how MADD became everything for her husband.
“MADD was so important to Chris. It was the highest priority, and we never missed a meeting. Chris thought if we could do anything to stop one person from drinking and driving, we had to do it. I still have to do it,” Hall said.
She still speaks at MADD events and meetings and shows her deceased husband’s picture. She tells about how his death was 100 percent preventable and unnecessary.
To her, the last statement is the most heartbreaking. Now, she lives for that glimmer of hope that what happened to her husband will not happen to someone else.
For more information or to help, visit www.madd.org.
Alabama Bright Lights captures the stories, through words, pictures and video, of some of our state’s brightest lights who are working to make Alabama an even better place to live, work and play. Award-winning journalist Karim Shamsi-Basha tells their inspiring stories. Email him comments, as well as suggestions on people to profile, at [email protected]