Susan Boden has been looking forward to Friday night's commencement at Cottonwood High School for 18 years. She says she has tickets to sit alongside all the other proud parents, listen to the speeches and watch as the seniors receive their diplomas.
However, her daughter, Rebecca, won't be graduating.Rebecca was killed April 4, 1986, when a Dodge Ram Charger packed with eight teenagers plunged off the edge of the I-15 Sixth South off-ramp 10 minutes before midnight. The 17-year-old driver had been drinking.
Boden, a mother of eight, said she thinks constantly about Rebecca and all the life she had left to live - the proms, Friday's graduation, college and eventual marriage. Now all she has is memories.
Sitting in a chair next to an old upright piano in a rambler in the Cottonwood area, Boden cautions teens to not let drunken driving cut their lives short. She frequently thumbs through Rebecca's writing, awards, photographs and newspaper clippings neatly arranged in a quilted loose-leaf binder. When someone isn't looking at it, it sits on a table in the living room.
"It doesn't matter how many children I have, none of them will ever take the place of Rebecca," Boden said. "None of these kids will ever laugh like Rebecca laughed. They won't have the same sense of humor she had. I miss her a lot, and I know her sisters miss her a lot."
She said attending Wednesday's graduation is one of the things she has to do to honor her daughter's memory. The other is to talk face-to-face to the young man who was driving drunk when her daughter died. She wants to tell him she holds no grudges.
Rebecca died 13 days before she turned 16. She was an energetic teenager with typical problems and interests in drama, writing and of course, boys. She was also active in the young women's program in her LDS ward, Boden said.
"She was a mile-a-minute person. She never slowed down. She was always on the go. She was a little bundle of energy," Boden said. "She had pretty well made up her mind that what she wanted to do was social work."
It was perhaps that desire to help others that drew her into a crowd of youths who were willing to live on the edge - willing to drink alcohol and drive fast.
Rebecca's rebellious streak had led her to make a decision to leave home and live with friends. However, her mother said the birth of a new sister, Melissa, brought a change of heart.
"The baby was born the 27th of March, and I came home on Easter Sunday. Rebecca came home Easter Sunday. She was home six days before the accident," Boden said. "During those six days she was home we did a lot of talking about the things she wanted to improve on, she set some goals for herself and was planning on going to school in the summer."
On Friday, she returned to stay with her friends. Once at their apartment, she decided to go out for the evening. That night 10 young people packed into the Ram Charger to cruise the valley. As part of the evening ritual, someone "legal" bought beer for the youths.
Eventually, the driver stopped and two of the youths got out. Rebecca remained in the front seat, and asked the driver to take her to 7-Eleven to buy some snacks. The driver headed north and took the Sixth South exit going 70 mph.
According to an accident report, as the vehicle was rounding the ramp curve it struck the right wall, the driver overcorrected and it plunged 40 feet off the left side of the ramp into a vacant lot near Seventh West.
During the fall two teens were ejected and Rebecca was pinned under the dashboard. The impact forced her broken legs into her torso, piercing her heart. Boden takes comfort in the fact she was killed instantly.
Shane Metters, 16, of Murray, was also killed. Shilo Kounalis, 15, of Sandy, was thrown from the vehicle and later died at University Hospital. The six others were hospitalized and survived.
It was 10 hours before Boden found out her daughter was dead. Since Rebecca had left her identification at her friends' apartment, police pieced together sketchy information about Rebecca until they found her family.
"I had gotten up and I was in my kitchen and I saw a police car out in the road. I immediately though something had happened to Rebecca. She was the only one of the children who wasn't home," Boden said.
"They (he highway patrol troopers) said, `Do you have a daughter Rebecca?' We said, `Yes.' Then my husband asked them, `What hospital is she in?' I looked at him and at them and said, `She's not in the hospital, is she?' The officer said, `She's been killed.' I started crying . . . I couldn't bring myself to go and identify her," she said.
Despite urging from friends, Boden never filed a lawsuit against the driver. He has gone through enough, and suing him won't bring Rebecca back, she said. However, she wonders why justice never came to the person who bought alcohol for the youths.
"If they could get away with it that time, how many other people will be injured or killed because somebody was foolish enough to give liquor to people who are not of age? There are so many that can't handle it," she said.