By Joel Feldman
Travelers Insurance Company’s “Unfinished Stories” tell the stories of those killed by distracted driving in a way that has never been done before.
Howard Stein was killed by a driver who was programming her GPS three months before his first grandchild, Evie, was born. He will never know the joy of being a grandfather and he and Evie will never share the special love that exists between grandparent and grandchild. We could only have guessed what that relationship would have looked like, until now.
In “The Tree House” video animation, Travelers gives us a glimpse of Howard and Evie bonding as she helps him create a backyard treehouse for her. We see Howard using his carpentry skills to build that treehouse and little Evie smiling and handing her grandfather the tools to do so. After it is completed Evie provides a very special welcome to her grandfather that brings tears to his face and likely, to those who view the animation.
While those who have lost loved ones suddenly and tragically in crashes think about what the future may have held for them and their loved ones, those are abstract thoughts. Here, those abstract thoughts, longings and hopes, are shown in living color. “The Tree House” is undeniably sad as it points out so clearly what has been stolen from Howard and Evie, yet it is also somehow uplifting, perhaps because it is animated.
Emily Stein, Howard’s daughter and Evie’s mother, described her reaction to seeing “The Treehouse:”
I felt like my dad was truly being honored, from the small details of his workshop and his gentle demeanor, to the type of grandpa he would have been for my children. It was also hard to watch, because it was so effective at capturing what we all lost, and what my dad lost.
We see a future that could and should have been but, now can never be. That representation helps us better understand the full dimension of the loss. By doing so will drivers be affected so that their driving behaviors change?
I showed “The Tree House” to a group of parents and their teens in my recent EndDD.org (end distracted driving) presentation at a school in Maryland. There were many favorable comments, including the following:
“It really got to me. It was a cartoon, yet I was in tears seeing the grandfather holding the hand of the granddaughter he had never met and would never meet.”
“Although no one really knows how others suffer after the death of a loved one, this conveyed simply and beautifully what each of them had lost.”
“There are lots of good reasons not to drive distracted. Now I have another one-so that I don’t cut short someone’s life and their story.”
“I saw so clearly, so beautifully and so painfully what a few seconds of distraction could cause. This will stick with me.”
There are two other stories in the Travelers series that are equally as impactful. Phillip LaVallee was a dedicated college runner who had dreams of competing in the Rio Olympics. A woman reaching for her phone killed Phillip while he was on a training run. In “The Route” we see Phillip living his dream with friends and family cheering him on.
Shreya Dixit had a beautiful voice and a passion for singing. She was a passenger in a car driven by a friend who reached for something, lost control of the car and ran off the road, killing Shreya. In “The Stage,” Shreya’s dream of singing on stage comes to life for us.
Despite a number of well-publicized campaigns, distracted driving crashes, injuries and deaths have not significantly decreased in the last five years. That is why “Unfinished Stories” has been greeted with enthusiasm by traffic safety advocates and the families of those killed by distracted driving.
It is also why the families allowed Travelers to create a future for their loved ones, albeit a future that can never come to pass. We want our loved ones to be remembered and, equally as important, we want their lives, and deaths, to have meaning. We don’t want this to happen to others.
My daughter Casey was also killed by a distracted driver. She had dreams of becoming a newspaper or television reporter. After her death her colleagues on her college newspaper told me that Casey taught them that each and every one of us has a unique and beautiful story and that telling those stories has the power to change the world.
Casey would have applauded Traveler’s work in producing “Unfinished Stories.”
Thank you, Travelers, for telling these stories and thank you families for allowing your loved one’s stories to be told.
Joel Feldman is the father of the late Casey Feldman and founder of the Casey Feldman Foundation and its sponsored project, EndDD.org. He has been a practicing attorney for 34 years and a shareholder in the law firm of Anapol Schwartz in Philadelphia. He received a masters in counseling in 2013 and speaks throughout the U.S. and Canada to teens and adults, changing attitudes and behaviors through the science based, End Distracted Driving program. Joel also provides death notification training to law enforcement and the medical community. Joel can be reached at [email protected]