Last year – February 12th, 2007 – musicians Angela Svendsen, Kjersten Oquist, and Kelly Gronli were returning to Portland from a concert with the Eugene Symphony. Two of the three, Angela and Kjersten, never made it back to Portland alive, their lives ended in a head on collision with a drunk driver who was driving south in the northbound lanes of Interstate 5. Kelly Gronli somehow survived with relatively minor injuries.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of a day which was so devastating for the musical community of Western Oregon and Southwest Washington, and for the families of the deceased. The Oregon Symphony and Eugene Symphony both played emotionally-charged memorial pieces for their fallen colleagues, and I took part, along with violinists Ronald Blessinger and Gretchen Tucker and cellist Heather Blackburn, in a performance of the Barber Adagio at Angela’s memorial service in Vancouver.
The court case against the alleged drunk driver, Fivea Sharipoff (who has one prior DUII conviction), is still in the pre-trial motions stage and will go to trial soon.
This tragedy has affected me in some very real ways:
I try not to drive to our runouts in Salem, choosing to ride the symphony bus instead. I get nervous when Heather drives to gigs at night.
I worry about all of my colleagues and friends who still do the dangerous drive between Portland and Eugene many times each year as members of the Eugene Symphony.
I read and hear every story about head-on drunk driving collisions on our state’s highways with a growing sense of anger and the inability of our justice system to find a fool-proof and irrevocable way to prohibit convicted DUII offenders from EVER getting behind the wheel of ANY car EVER again.
Mostly, I miss seeing Kjersten or Angela at the ballet or subbing in the symphony, and there is still a hole in my heart – both for my loss, and for the much greater loss of their family and closest friends.
Here is a collection of the posts that I wrote following the collision and its aftermath:
- fallen colleagues
- the cost of drunk driving
- heartfelt eulogy
- with culture, responsibility
- mourning through music
- kjersten’s memorial
- angela’s memorial
- 2007 in review
Here is a link to the online memorial guestbook for Angela and Kjersten – I’m sure that reflections on the anniversary would be helpful to both friends and family who are also experiencing renewed grief at this time.
Finally, consider a donation in honor of Angela, Kjersten and Kelly to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. They are promoting important legislation to ensure that repeat offenses no longer happen.