BCC Hosts Photo Exhibit Termed "Profound" and "Powerful"By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Monday, October 23, 2006
Pittsfield - Perhaps these are the photos that will be worth 1,000 words.
A "Friends. One Day...One Wrong Turn" exhibit depicting the promising lives of four Colgate University students killed during a Nov. 2000 drunk driving car crash opened today at the Berkshire Community College, and a 5:30 p.m.- 7 p.m. Oct. 24 exhibit reception will be held at the BCC cafeteria. The exhibit concludes at BCC on Dec. 1.
Less Than 60 Seconds
The crash ended the lives of Katie Almeter, Emily Collins, Rachel Nargiso and Kevin King. Almeter, Collins and Nargiso had been best friends for several years and were part of a foursome that flagged down a Jeep for a ride on a rainy night. King was among the three males in the Jeep.
According to exhibit information, less than one minute after the four women got into the vehicle, the driver lost control on slick roads and crashed into an oak tree.
The exhibit focuses on the lives of those killed as well as the impact and aftermath of the crash. Included are more than 30 enlarged photographs, personal possessions and family photo albums, police documents, videotapes and an audio clip. Photographs include high school senior class pictures, graduation pictures, sports pictures, and a photograph of King with former U.S. President William J. Clinton.
A timeline focused on events prior to the crash include an e-mail Almeter sent to her mother, Collins' student planner, a photograph taken just hours before the fatal crash, two New York State Police blood alcohol content reports, clothing worn by Almeter and Collins the night of the crash, and other items.
As part of the exhibit, host communities are able to include a local component. The family of Craig LeDuc, a Union College student and Dalton resident who died as a result of a December 2003 vehicle accident, have provided items from LeDuc's life for inclusion in the BCC display, said victim assistance advocate and local exhibit organizer Patricia Turner.
The exhibit was assembled by the Louis Henry Morgan Institute of SUNYIT, the New York State STOP-DWI Foundation,and Union College with much assistance from family and friends of the victims.
Sponsors of the BCC display are the Berkshire County Office of the District Attorney, BCC, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Berkshire Health Systems, the Berkshire Eagle, the Berkshire Youth Development Partnership and Girardi Distributors.
The free exhibit is open to the public Mon.-Fri. 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.. Special evening or weekend viewing arrangements may be made by calling Carol Mulcahy, director of community outreach and education for the district attorney's office, or Turner at 413-443-5951.
"I hope we get as many high school and college students as we can to come," said Mulcahy during an Oct. 23 telephone interview. "We're really working as hard as we can as a community to get as many people as possible to come."
The Berkshire Community College main campus is located at 1350 West St. in Pittsfield.
"Katie Loved To Laugh..."
The Colgate students killed were well-rounded, "good" kids, according to written anecdotes from family members.
"Katie loved to laugh, have a good time with her family and friends, and live life out loud," wrote Almeter's mother.
"She was a multi-faceted person- she was a dedicated athlete, striving to do her very best, focused and intent while involved in a soccer game or track event, yet she remembered to have fun and enjoy it all as well. She charmed her peers and teachers and other adults with her ready smile and her willingness to help."
Baby Spoon Sundaes; The "Fashion Police"
Nargiso's written description reflected a personality many parents may recognize: "She loved to dress up as a little girl and as she grew up became the infamous "fashion police" with her sister. Her room was always a mess because she changed her clothes several times before she left for school."
Collins created a sundae that permitted her to enjoy a sweet treat without compromising her health conscious approach to food: "Most of us would be eating a huge sundae. Em would be standing at the counter with a baby spoon in her hand, she would take out one baby spoon of ice cream out of the container, put a touch of chocolate on it and a couple of sprinkles.. That was her sundae; she was always health conscious and this was her way of enjoying sweets."
King left his mark on the world as well, according to a story that described parts of his life.
"After [King] passed away, a homeless man showed up at his wake and told us that every weekend night when Kevin would be waiting for a cab to go home, whatever money he had left in his pockets, whether it was one dollar or ten, he would give the money to the homeless man for food. Kevin had a big heart."
Anecdotes and additional exhibit items create an intimate look at the victims lives which underscores the tragedy of their deaths, Turner said.
"This exhibit is really something to see, there's a red tank top and a red dress worn by the girls, and there is a videotape that plays at the end and talks about the facets of their lives. When people talk about the girls, they don't about them as one, they talk about the three of them. When you leave, you feel like you know these people."
The Office of the District Attorney and regional Mothers Against Drunk Driving groups host a yearly vigil in December for those killed by drunk drivers. High school Students Against Destructive Decisions groups are also involved, and a Berkshire region SADD group meets on a monthly basis at the DA's office, Mulcahy said.
A Pittsfield High School SADD group visited the "Friends. One Day...One Wrong Turn" exhibit while it was at Union College and those students subsequently shared their thoughts about the exhibit during a monthly meeting, Mulcahy said.
"The idea was 'wouldn't it be great if we could bring it to Berkshire County,'" she said.
Mulcahy was among a county-based group that traveled to New York to view the exhibit and agreed that the display should be shown regionally. Plans to host the exhibit began to unfold in March, she said.
"This Can Happen To Anyone"
Numerous Berkshire high school principals have been contacted about the exhibit and several school administrators plan to bring students to view the exhibit, Mulcahy and Turner said.
Berkshire County District Attorney David F. Capeless expressed support for the exhibit in a prepared statement.
"Underage drinking is a public problem which may lead to destructive decisions and tragic consequences," he said. "It is my hope that those students who view the exhibit will think twice about drinking and driving."
Most people are struck by the normal, "kid-next-door" personas of the students who were killed, Turner said.
"What this exhibit really makes you understand is that this [tragedy] happens to honors students, to good kids, to good athletes; this can happen to anyone."
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at email@example.com or at 802-823-9367.