For many people, just uttering the word Grandma evokes heart-warming feeling of special love, good times and hugs.
Those feelings disappeared from the Casazza family on November 11, 2007 when Virginia Casazza Urgo was an innocent backseat passenger in her cousin’s car coming home from her birthday celebration. Unlicensed 20-year-old Sophia Santos, daughter of Kentucky Derby winner Jose Santos, was driving with a Blood Alcohol Level of .24, three times the legal limit and ran a red light at the busy intersection of Hempstead Turnpike and Wantagh Avenue, killing Virginia and critically injuring her sister and husband. Virginia left behind a distraught family including three sons, one daughter and ten grandchildren.
Earlier this month, I attended a premier of One Fatal Mistake, a documentary made by Virginia’s granddaughter, G-Na, a film student at Hunter College. In the film, we are introduced to Virginia through clips of home videos in which her infectious laugh and warmth leap off of the screen. Six of her grandchildren tell their story of how they heard the news of their beloved Grandma’s death and how they are currently dealing with their daily lives without her. Grandma was the family’s go-to person, best friend, cheerleader for every sporting event, fun and the light of their lives. To say that they were devastated is simply an understatement. As ironic as it sounds, the movie was both heart warming and gut wrenching at the same time.
The film shares coverage from local news sources such as News12 and Newsday and discusses the new Aggravated Vehicular Homicide law that Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice helped draft and pass through the state legislature just days before the fatal accident. This law the most serious DWI-specific state law in New York State. G-Na also introduces us to members of MADD, real stories from people who have driven drunk, testimony from Sophia Santos and a demonstration of a breathalyzer installed in a car.
Sophia Santos was sentenced to three to nine years in prison. After three years, she was denied parole and will not be eligible again until 2013.
G-Na said, “Nobody ever knows the effects [of a tragedy like this] on a family, unless that family is yours.” Through her film, this amazing 22 year-old makes you feel like part of her loving Long Island family whose lives have been shattered. At the showing that I attended, there wasn’t a dry eye in the theater – G-Na has accomplished her goal of both educating people about the dangers of drunk driving and keeping her grandmother’s memory alive through One Fatal Mistake.
This holiday season, when you are celebrating with your family, remember G-Na’s family and how one mistake can shatter lives.
For more information on One Fatal Mistake, visit www.onefatalmistakemovie.com.