Tragic car accident used as cautionary tale for students

They did everything right. That’s what Jon Zigler tells me between sips of his Samuel Adams’ Octoberfest.

Zigler’s mannerisms are ordinary but his eyes tell me that the canyon-deep wounds left by the death of his best friend aren’t in any hurry to heal.

But from what he told me, they did, in fact, do everything right.

Almost.

His best friend, Tyler, and a few other buddies were out drinking in Slippery Rock, PA. Knowing they’d be too inebriated to drive home, they settled on a designated driver early in the night.

On the way home, the driver came to a notoriously bad intersection, made worse by fog, and decided to unwittingly pull out in front of an oncoming truck.

Tyler, who had not been wearing a seat belt, was flung from the car and was dead by 3 a.m.; Zigler was on his way home by 5 a.m.

Everyone else in the car was the blessed recipients of bruises you could get from falling down the stairs.

Isn’t that the way it seems these stories always end?

This was the first opportunity I’ve had to really talk to him since the whirlwind began two weekends ago and I regretted making him relive it.

But I wanted to reiterate, in person, what I hoped he already knew – we were all here for him. Texts and calls just don’t cut it, especially when concerning issues of gravity.

However, I was late with my condolences – really late. Only two hours after arriving home that Saturday morning his phone’s inbox was already filling up with well wishes.

It was during the following week he spent burying and mourning Tyler that he realized his best friend still had one lesson left to teach him.

Never again, he said, would he take anything for granted. And it shows.

Now on car trips, even ones just a few blocks downtown, Zigler has his seat belt buckled before he sees the first click-it or ticket billboard.

After his dreaded physician assistant classes forced him to walk around campus like a zombie through the first weeks of school, Zigler no longer complains about spending more time in Nash Library than the workers themselves.

And although I only had the pleasure of meeting Tyler a few times, his death still had an impact on me – it reminded me how important friendships are, especially with those people that you no longer see on a daily basis.

As soon as I heard about what had happened, I sent a quick text to my closest friends from home just reminding them that I loved them, appreciated their friendship and to be careful until fall break.

It’s something I suggest everyone do. It’ll prove to your loved ones that you think about them even when they’re not on your Facebook news feed.

Tyler’s passing was not in vain. He was able to teach, in death, lessons that can’t be appreciated in a tragic-less life.

So in reality, Zigler was right. Tyler did do everything right.

ZACK MCDERMOTT

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