Family survives tragedy after DUI kills children

By Staff
IN MEMORY Joy Woods, left, and Eddie Woods light a candle in memory of Eddie's daughter, Tonya Gee, during the a statewide candlelight vigil Saturday night sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving. The event at NorthPark Church attracted more than 200 people. PHOTO BY CARISA MCCAIN / THE MERIDIAN STAR
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
Dec. 8, 2002
It's been more than nine years, but Ricky Harrison can't forget Sunday afternoon, Aug. 8, 1993.
It was 5:55 p.m., five minutes before class at Beulah Baptist Church two miles up the road in Little Rock. Harrison and his two children were in a blue Pontiac Bonneville outside their house waiting on his wife.
The next time he looked at his watch it was 6:10 p.m. he was on the side of Hickory-Little Rock Road. His wife was injured and his two children, C.J., 8, and Crystal, 11, were dead.
Their car had been hit by a drunken driver who was on the wrong side of the road. When Harrison tried to swerve out of the way, the driver slammed into the side of the car.
Harrison and his wife, Janean, 44, survived the deadly accident. So did the driver of the other car, who was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol and sent to prison.
Helping victims
The Harrisons are among hundreds of Mississippi families who have been affected by drinking-and-driving accidents and helped by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
On Saturday night, about 200 people from around the state gathered at NorthPark Church in Meridian to remember those families at a MADD candlelight vigil.
The victims were remembered through a pictorial video; a candle was lit in their honor. Wendy Hamilton, MADD's national president, was the keynote speaker.
The Harrisons couldn't make the vigil on Saturday, but they said that MADD and their faith in God has helped them deal with the accident and make it through tough times.
Fond memories
The Harrisons said they still think about their children every day.
Janean Harrison remembers her daughter: "She was our sweet child. Very caring, into school, had a lot of friends and very athletic."
The Harrisons both said they feel God had a plan for them and a reason for this tragedy in their lives. "Even in the freak way that it happened," Janean Harrison said. "I was sitting in the front (seat) until I had to go back inside the house. When I left, C.J. got in the front with his dad.
Ricky Harrison, who teaches drafting and design at East Central Community College, said that since his accident and loss he has seen God work in his friends' lives.
Special miracle
One of the miracles that the Harrisons said happened after the accident was the birth of their son, Elijah, now 2.
After the accident, Janean said, she had surgery to allow her to have children again. Then, she said, "we tried for a while and nearly gave up. We even bought a dog to take care of."
But in April 2000, two months before the man who was convicted and sent to prison because of their accident was released from prison, Elijah was born.
The Harrisons, high school sweethearts from Newton County, recently built a house in Little Rock and continue to attend Beulah Baptist Church every Sunday.
They still drive on the same road on which the accident happened. And just like that day, they say they will never forget their children and how those few minutes changed their lives forever.