Woman uses 42-year-old anguish in fight against sale of alcohol
Cindy Grimes' heart still beats, but it's been broken for 42 years. Five days a mother and returning from the hospital on April 25, 1970, the car Mrs. Grimes, her mother, newborn child and husband Mike were in was hit by a drunken driver.
Mrs. Grimes, 61, suffered burns and catastrophic physical injuries that still affect her today. Her newborn, Mi-chelle, and her mother died in the fiery crash at Greenbrier Road and Texas Highway 64.
Leaning on her cane beside two wreathed crosses at the intersection, Mrs. Grimes' tears are evidence that some emotional wounds never heal.
"You never get over the emotional part," she said. "For a long time, it was especially hard on Mother's Day because I didn't have a mother and I didn't have a child."
Today, Mrs. Grimes, of Lindale, speaks to convicted DWI offenders. She is a spokeswoman for the damage drinking and driving can inflict on families.
She is also speaking out against alcohol propositions, which would legalize beer and wine sales in Tyler and Justice of the Peace Precinct 2.
Mrs. Grimes has told thousands of convicted drunken drivers her story. She lost her daughter and mother and suffered extensive burns to her body in the crash. It took her another two years to walk again, but she still has to plan family vacations according to how much her legs can handle, she said.
The emotional scars are worse than the physical trauma, she said.
Bob Westbrook, chairman of the Buy Local First committee that circulated the petitions for legalization, said Mrs. Grimes' story is tragic but one that numbers show could be reduced by allowing beer and wine sales.
A survey of 25 jurisdictions that recently turned wet produced by Smith County Sheriff J.B. Smith showed alcohol-related crimes and DWIs reduced in those areas. Smith said Texas Department of Public Safety studies indicate the same trend in dry-to-wet areas.
"We don't want to minimize her personal loss. It's a tragedy, but it's also one of the reasons we support sales here, because the numbers show those instances will be reduced," he said. "Will it wipe them out? No."
Pastor Mike Daniels, of Landmark Baptist Church, who formed Stand Strong for Tyler, said there is too much emphasis on statistics and numbers, whether safety or economical, and that Mrs. Grimes' story tells the truth about alcohol affecting people's lives.
Alcohol proponents "want the revenue, but they don't want the residue and the residue of alcohol is broken lives," he said. "This is as bad as it gets."
Smith said he has a family member who was victimized by a drunken driver. He said he empathizes with Mrs. Grimes and that his report is not an endorsement for legalization.
"It's an emotional issue. I was asked to do a study and that's what I did," he said. "My heart goes out to her. The numbers don't tell the individual's story, but they are what they are."
The drunken driver involved in Mrs. Grimes' crash had been drinking at a friend's home on Saturday afternoon, she said. He ran from the scene of the crash, she said.
The man was convicted and handed a three-year sentence of which Mrs. Grimes said she heard he served only one year.
Mrs. Grimes said legalizing beer and wine increases access. It increases access for adults wanting "another" six pack and children seeking their first.
On Thursday, Mrs. Grimes will talk to another group of convicted drunken drivers at the Smith County Office Building downtown. She said she spoke out and voted against alcohol when Lindale voters considered legalization in 2005. This time, she doesn't have a vote but wants voters to hear her message.
"They say it will bring $5 million in tax revenue to the area," she said. "I would give $5 million to have (my daughter and mother) back, but it can't bring them back."