The past 24 hours have been filled with sadness as we morn the loss of Kelly Tracy. Kelly was a 16 year old sophomore at Highland High School in Gilbert, AZ whose life was tragically cut short when she was killed by a drunk driver yesterday morning.
As her fellow Highland High Marching band mates were preparing to go to a performance in the Gilbert Days parade, Kelly and her brother Matt, a Senior at Highland and also in the band, were involved in a near head-on collision that occurred at 6:30am as they were just minutes from joining their band mates.
Mesa police say Manuel Contreras-Galdean, a 32 year old illegal immigrant, was intoxicated. According to ABC15, he has at least one prior conviction for drunk driving in Tempe in 2007.
I was a volunteer “band parent” yesterday and was with the kids when the announcement was made that Kelly had died. Thankfully Matt’s injuries are not life-threatening.
The outpouring of emotion was overwhelming. When a beautiful, vibrant young lady is struck down at such a young age, it is difficult to comprehend. That a man, previously convicted of drunk driving, was again driving drunk — at 6:30 in the morning — makes this all the more tragic. This tragedy, and the suffering of so many people, was completely preventable. It was a senseless act of murder.
Last night, dozens of Kelly’s friends gathered at her church to remember her. As the kids came to the front and told stories of Kelly, it became abundantly clear that we’d lost a very special person. Watching teenagers pour out their hearts, struggling to cope with a loss of this magnitude was both exceedingly painful and warmingly remarkable at the same time. No one, much less a group of teenagers, should ever have to go through what these kids were enduring. Yet their love for Kelly, and for her life, shined through. While I suspect many harbored thoughts of anger for the man who killed Kelly, no anger was expressed. What I saw was a bunch of amazing young adults, delivering deeply poignant messages. Last night was for Kelly, and those who loved her.
Personally, I can’t look at the picture of the “man” that killed Kelly without feeling sick to my stomach. I simply can not comprehend what was going through this animals mind when he slipped behind the wheel of a car yesterday morning, drunk, with no license. He’s alive today, and Kelly is dead. Contreras-Galden has been charged with one count of Manslaughter and one count of Aggravated Assault. If he gets out of prison before he dies then a travesty of justice will have been served. I know I should be able to forgive him, but I can not. I’ll leave that to a higher and greater power.
Please, please, don’t ever drink and drive. Take a cab, call a friend, do anything but get behind the wheel. It only takes a split-second to snuff out a life and to spread incalculable suffering.
An impromptu memorial to Kelly is in the beginning stages outside the Highland High School Band room (near the north west corner of the school). A Teddy bear with a Highland hat, a candle, and a picture have been left. I suspect this will grow over the next few days. As the kids return to school tomorrow and the word spreads of Kelly’s tragic death, these kids are in for a rough time. An empty seat in the classroom, a missing smile, a silent xylophone. These reminders and more will make these wonderful young adults sad, and angry. Time will ease the pain and anger, but time will not erase the wonderful memories Kelly Tracy left behind.
God speed Kelly. You will be missed, but never forgotten.
The family will be setting up accounts to help defray the costs of Kelly’s funeral. You can get more details here, including online donation.
Also, on Kelly’s beloved Facebook a group — In Loving Memory of Kelly Tracy — has been set up.
182 290 people have already joined.