Teen tragedy sparks call to say ‘I love you’

Headlines in November told a tragic tale involving teenage twin girls. This story really caught my eye, because teens – often maligned in news stories – were innocent victims in this crash.
   You might have read about Janeah and Janesah Goheen, 17-year-old Oak Harbor twins driving to Seattle on Halloween to visit a haunted house. A 53-year-old Oak Harbor man crossed the centerline of Highway 20 near Anacortes and smashed the girls’ car.
   Janeah died at the scene. Their 18-year-old friend was hospitalized with a concussion, and Janesah was rushed to Harborview Hospital with life-threatening injuries. Ten days later, she died.
   This wasn’t a case of teenagers speeding, texting behind the wheel, or weaving between cars. It was the adult driver who police say “accelerated rapidly” and drove recklessly and with disregard for others. He was arrested on suspicion of vehicular homicide.
   Undoubtedly, anguish gnaws at parents like me who followed the story. KING-TV aired an interview with the twins’ mother, who reminisced with reporter Eric Wilkinson about their delivery long ago and its aftermath.
   “They came in and said, ‘Mrs. Goheen, we cannot console the girls. Do you have any suggestions?’ So, I told them to bring them to me, and I cuddled them together and as soon as I did that they stopped crying,” she told Wilkinson. “From that point on, they never wanted to be apart.”
   No parent should ever have to endure burying a child. It’s a cruel deviation from the normal order of life.
   For Jim and Debbie Goheen, it was their third brush with death. An older daughter also died in a car crash, in 2008.
   The Goheens’ message for all of us, teen drivers and adults, is to commemorate Janeah and Janesah by honoring our own families.
   “Take a moment to look them square in the eye and tell them how much you love them,” Jim Goheen said.
   That fits for teens who take their parents for granted. It fits for parents who do likewise – until those teens move out and the house gets sadly quiet.
   It fits for everyone.

by  Jon Osterberg

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