It was impossible to mask the discomfort in the audience Wednesday at Mountain Valley High School as two local parents talked openly about their grief.

Michele Cushman spoke of her daughter, Rebecca, who was 21 when she was killed in a drunken-driving accident last summer in Wisconsin.

Rebecca Cushman was born in Lewiston and went to school in Mexico, graduating from Mountain Valley High School in 2008.

Michele Cushman talked to her daughter twice by phone in the 90 minutes before the crash, urging her not to get into a car with someone who had been drinking. And twice her daughter said she would not.

But then she did. 

“You can’t go through life saying ‘This isn’t going to happen to me.’ I know that she did and it cost her her life.”

Just as painful was the warning issued by Earl Lowe to the students.

Police say his daughter, Kristina, 19, was driving under the influence of alcohol, speeding and text-messaging when her car flipped top-first into a stand of trees in West Paris.

Killed that night were Rebecca Mason, 16, and Logan Dam, 19. Kristina, who suffered debilitating back injuries, faces up to 95 years in prison.

Earl Lowe is a longtime crash investigator for the Maine State Police. After he described both the grief and guilt he felt for the parents of the other children killed in the accident, he urged teens to call a parent, relative or other sober person for a ride.

Everyone deals with overwhelming grief differently. Some people withdraw, which is completely understandable. Others try to use that grief to make a positive difference in the lives of others.

Wednesday in Rumford, that seemed to be working. “The effects of it are so much more intense than I thought,” a 16-year-old girl told a Sun Journal reporter. “Like, I used to text and drive sometimes … but after today, I’m done.”

It takes courage to speak out, and we admire both parents for doing so.

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