The human consequences of speed
Joelle Sleiman is 21 years old and lives in Marjeyoun in southern Lebanon. Her family - including her parents and two younger brothers - managed to survive the long civil war without serious incidents. On 16 August 2001, though, they were struck by tragedy when the two sons - Nicolas, 17 years, and Andy, 16 years - were involved in a car crash.
Nicolas loved cars and fast driving. Because of the lack of law enforcement in their area he was able to take the car out without a licence and drive at high speeds. He didn't listen to his parents' pleas not to drive.
On that terrible night, Joelle's mother was watching television late, waiting for the boys to come home. Instead, news of the crash arrived. Joelle and her parents rushed to the hospital, where they found Andy dead and Nicolas in a grave condition, not responding to treatment. They managed, with difficulty, to have Nicolas transferred to a hospital in Beirut, where he lay in a coma.
On the same day that Andy’s funeral was held, the father was told that Nicolas’s prospects were not promising. The family spent the next week praying for a miracle, but nothing could be done. Nicolas died one week after his brother. It eventually emerged that the boys were trying to avoid an unknown driver coming at them in the wrong direction, when they hit a wall.
When Joelle talks to other teenagers about speeding, they sometimes say to her, “it is up to us if we choose to die”. They forget, Joelle points out, that they are not the only ones affected, that there are parents, brothers, sisters and close friends who love them. They should also think about that.
Losing her two brothers has completely changed Joelle's life. She now lives alone at home with her parents. She joined the Youth Association for Social Awareness (YASA), which has helped ease her inner pain. While she did not get her brothers back, she says that at least she can help other sisters avoid what she went through. Her work with YASA gives her pride, and she does it thinking of Andy and Nicolas.
Published with kind permission of Joelle Sleiman