No One is Invincible

By: Jasmine Esulin, Class of 2011

We reach our teenage years and we think, we’re invincible. We receive our licenses and think, now we finally have freedom. As we grow up, we want to conquer it all. We can take on anything, do anything, survive anything. But then we’re reminded of human fragility when tragedy strikes.

His infectious laugh, genuine personality, and clever sense of humor made everyone think he’d never leave. He’d probably outlive all of us because of his young and carefree spirit. He’d always be there because there was nothing strong enough to break him down. His name, Adir, literally meant mighty. But then the worst news a first love and a childhood best friend can imagine is heard out loud, only to be reciprocated with complete shock and shouts that this is a sick joke. A car crash? He flew out the window? No, he can’t be dead! No, he cannot be gone forever! No! Slowly everything begins to confirm that it’s true; your mother’s heart wrenching tears, the most depressing Facebook posts to his wall, the influx of texts exclaiming, “did you hear what happened?!” You drive to his house to have the reality sink in a bit deeper. Your whole world is there, everyone seems familiar, but their usual happy faces have been replaced with ones of incomprehensible grief. You go up the stairs and sneak into his bedroom to smell his t-shirts and stare at the carvings engraved into his wooden desk. It’s all the same as the last time you were there, except unbearably quiet. The silence makes you nauseous and weak because it is yet another affirmation of the worst truth. I realized then and there that he’d forever be 17 years old. My image of him will always be of that mischievous smirk, the kindest of eyes, those pudgy hands, a deep soul, and a heart full of life. That will eternally be Adir Vered.

About six years after his death, I heard about Tsofia Mesica. Her story sounded too heavy and too familiar to swallow. 15 years old? Car surfing? Too late to save her life?

No lesson is worth anyone’s life, even if the lesson saves other lives. I remember the frustration I felt when the only lesson I saw in Adir’s death was to wear a seatbelt. His life taken so that we’d learn that? It wasn’t worth it. I already knew that. It didn’t make sense. However, that lesson needs to be reiterated. Before I continue writing, though, it must be stated that the purpose of this blog is not to place the blame of these tragedies on anyone. All of us are much too minuscule to even attempt to understand why such events take place. I am not here to give reasons or to preach. I only pray that my words will provide comfort, will help prevent future teenagers from driving irresponsibly, and they will show that no one is alone in these horrific occurrences.

To Tsofia’s parents and family,

I am so sorry for your loss. I know your daughter gave your lives much meaning, light, and joy. Her memory will inevitably always be with you and with those she knew. She was young, but I’m sure her fifteen years were filled with endless laughter and love. Having her with you was a blessing, and I only wish you more of them for the future.

To Tsofia’s classmates, friends, and teenagers everywhere,
It’s very understandable that you forget road safety rules because you want to have fun and feel independent. I get it, I’m also from the Valley. There’s no denying that it’s really quite a boring place without a car. Once you finally get to drive, nothing is more liberating than blasting music as you speed down the 101 or Laurel Canyon with your sunroof and windows open. But you are so young, and you have endless experiences to live for that far exceeds the thrill of speeding. Don’t let your lives that have infinite potential to flourish end much too early. It goes against nature for you to not be here. In terms of coping, you might not be ready to do so because it’s too fresh now, and that’s okay. There are many ways of going about it though. At Adir’s shiva, a close rabbi of mine came up to me and said that one direction to go in from here is to do mitzvot in his memory. He said that now that Adir is no longer in this world, we can do good actions to lift his soul to the loftiest heights of Gan Eden. That resonated with me tremendously, but again, I’m not here to preach, only to help if you are seeking guidance and empathy. I know people who got tattoos, permanently writing his name and the years of his life on their bodies. That was their coping mechanism, and that’s also beautiful. Some people wrote him songs. Different friends made slideshows with pictures of him throughout high school. Others painted portraits of him smiling widely. Some traveled and shared stories of him with complete strangers. His family brings Israeli children with Cancer to Los Angeles and Las Vegas for a two-week trip every summer in his memory. They also donated a playroom to Tel HaShomer hospital in his merit. His mother and grandmother wear necklaces with his picture on them and never take them off.  Every year on December 3rd, his family and girlfriend at the time go to his favorite restaurant to celebrate his birthday. I write and I try to keep some mitzvot for him. Find your way of keeping the memory of Tsofia with you, and don’t ever hesitate to talk and cry about what happened. You can be angry, but try to channel that anger into something she would have loved.

To high school administrators,
I know you discuss road safety, but the level of awareness among your students needs to be greater. There are simple ways to slightly alter your approach and get through to your students. Teenagers seek authenticity. If you are real, they will absorb the advice you give them because they will believe that it’s coming from a place of deep care and concern, not rebuke. Perhaps you can even discuss what it’s like to be a driver in the Israeli army. Although it’s not a combat job, it’s still taken very seriously. Prior to becoming army drivers, soldiers must go through an intensive driver’s education and training program, throughout which they learn of terrible accidents and ways they could have been avoided. Every couple of months, these soldiers must take a refresher’s course covering similar information. Any time a driver goes out on a mission, he needs to have had at least seven hours of sleep beforehand. There is no such thing as an army driver driving alone; there is always what is known as a “mefaked nesiya,” who is a commander sitting beside the driver in the passenger’s seat ensuring that he isn’t dozing off or checking his phone. Clearly, it is an enormous responsibility. Furthermore, don’t just say, “Wear your seatbelt.” Rather, apply a personal and human side to it. Teach them about Adir z”l and Tsofia z”l, or other teens tragically killed on the road. Discuss who they were, what they loved, what they aspired to be, how it’s all been taken from them, and how their families and friends will forever mourn these children. Let their memories not be in vain, and let no more adolescents lose their lives because they thought they were invincible. None of us are.