Story by Andrew Bridges
Aaron Cooksey stood in front of more than 800 students at Missouri Valley College throughout Thursday, Sept. 27, to tell his personal story of the tragic consequences of drinking and driving.
Cooksey talked about his life and the mistakes he made when he was in college. His presentation, titled “Drop Your Pride…Too Many Have Died. Don’t Drink and Drive,” was brought to campus by the MVC Counseling Center. He spoke at four sessions during the day, all of which were packed with students.
Cooksey expressed to the students his thoughts when he returned to consciousness inside the mangled truck and looked at Andrea. “I was looking at her belly, telling it to move,” hoping for a sign that she was breathing, he said, adding that it never did.
“I let her die in a ditch on a Sunday afternoon,” he said. As he talked to the students, he tried to relay the message that, “You can’t go back in time and take it back.” He said, “Let the choices you make today be the choices you can live with tomorrow.”
As Aaron sat at his parents’ house before the court judge would later set the punishment, Aaron stood in front of the mirror, thinking, “How’d I go from a kid who didn’t drink to a guy who was an alcoholic, drug addict, and going to prison.” He said that second worse experience in his life was disappointing parents. Then he said, “The worst experience is waking up every day knowing I took someone’s life.’
Among other stories, Aaron tried to express to students the moment he had to look Andrea’s father straight in the eyes as her father talked about wanting one more day with his daughter. “I can’t express the look in his eyes. No word in the dictionary can even get close to it,” Cooksey said.
Cooksey wasn’t always an alcoholic. He was once a guy that never even went to parties and never had a drink of beer. But after a sports injury in college, Aaron started drinking. Within a year and a half, he couldn’t have a normal time without drinking, he said. At one point, he said he averaged drinking 10 to12 beers a day and abused prescription drugs.
“Andrea told me, ‘You have a problem…I don’t think you can give up alcohol’.” He said, “I thought I could give it up at any time.” He told students that, “Just one time, one person took my keys and didn’t let me drive. Just one time.”
Following the accident, Cooksey was charged with aggravated vehicular homicide, driving under the influence and other charges, for which he served time in prison, and his driver’s license was taken away for life.
At the end of the presentations, Cooksey held up the set of keys to the vehicle he was driving on the tragic day that ended one life and changed his life forever. He then let the keys drop to the floor.