MADD Holds Annual Vigil

Three hundred and sixty-two candles were lit in Gulfport as part of the annual statewide candlelight vigil of remembrance and hope. The candles represent loved ones that died senselessly at the hands of a drunk driver. In the crowd, was 8-year old Traven Harris who has been coming to light a candle for six years now. No 8 year old should have to attend this kind of ceremony, but he's here for his sister who was 10 months old when she was killed by a drunk driver.

"I really think about my sister a lot," Traven says.  "I like to light the candle, like to get it and stuff."

Rodger Moore is the state director of MADD in Mississippi and says, "Traven's mother tells a story about him when he was small, within a year after the time when his sister was killed, she found him sitting in the floor with all of his sister's clothes around him and couldn't find out why he was doing this, and suddenly she lifted some of the clothes to her nose and she could smell her deceased daughter and she suddenly realized why the son was there."

The lawn is filled with those who have been touched by this tragedy; families, law enforcement, and 362 victims in 1999 and many more from year's past.

Joe Gazzo is with the Mississippi Highway Patrol and he says law enforcement officers are often the ones who have to tell families about the loss of a loved one.

"It touches us, and anything we can do for an organization like MADD that's going out there and helping us in our law enforcement job, then we don't have to be out there to see the hurt," Gazzo says.

The candlelight vigil was about remembrance and hope, and that hope is that we can end these tragedies, so someone as young as little Traven Harris can realize his dreams.

"We can not accept the fact that one person is killed because of the irresponsibility of another individual," Rodger Moore says. "We cannot have individual freedom in this country without individual responsibility."

Meanwhile,8-year-old Traven sums up the danger this way, and he should know. "You can get yourself killed and somebody else killed."