Katlyn Marie Marchetti’s Legacy to Live On
By Diane Ford Sipe (grandmother)
August 4, 1989 to March 4, 2006
We want Katie’s tragic and senseless death at age sixteen to have a meaning. A second became an eternity. Katie did not cross her seatbelt the fateful night of March 3, 2006. She died at 5:53am the following morning at Tampa General Trauma Hospital.
Now as parents and grandparents we ask what we could have done to have prevented this from happening to Katie. We are going through the “what ifs”. We want to turn “what if” into “what might”.
What might we do to prevent another death due to the lack of latching that seat belt buckle into place? We must start with education. Not once, but over and over. We need constant reminders on a daily basis. Before your teenager, your spouse or your friend walks out the door, remind him/her to fasten their seat belt. Every time someone goes through the drive through window at a fast food restaurant or dry cleaner: say to the customer, fasten your seat belt. At the gas pump where you go to get your gas, place a logo on the handle to “fasten your seat belt”. There are so many ways to educate. We can empower everyone to save a life with three simple words, “Fasten Your Seatbelt”. We want the auto manufacturers to build cars where they won’t start until your seatbelt is in place, or cars where the buzzer won’t go off until the seatbelt is fastened.
We are trying to understand why Katie chose not to fasten her seatbelt. She did many times, at least with us. Katie came from a family of rule followers. She had curfews. She had support. She had love. She knew better. But we keep reading about the lack of brain development in teenagers with sound judgment and reasoning skills. Yet, our state laws allow them to be behind the wheel of a car at the age of sixteen.
As parents, we tried to protect Katie, even in her early years. We found the best doctors when she was having her open heart surgery as she was turning six. We found the best tutors to help her in math so she would gain confidence and perform well, and she did! Her math scores were above average on the FCAT and PSATs. She was planning to take her SATs in April, and start searching for colleges at the start of the summer. She had just gotten a 90% on her Trigonometry exam. Her creative, artistic and writing abilities were top notch. She had scored a 5.5 out of 6 on her writing FCATs. Her teachers loved her. Her boss at her part time weekend job loved her. She showed so much responsibility in those endeavors.
For three years Katie belonged to The Ophelia Project, a non-profit group dedicated to developing middle school and high school girls to believe that beauty comes from within. She attended “Super Camp” at Hampshire College in Amherst, MA last July where academics and life skills were taught. She gained such confidence even though she resisted attending a non-traditional summer camp. But Katie’s mom tried to put the right stepping stones in her pathway to become the best she could be.
The family traveled together, taking cruises, visiting New York, attending many musical plays, the museums and of course shopping, which Katie and her mother loved to do! Last summer’s drive up the California coast stopping in the charming coastal towns proved to be a beautiful experience for Katie. Katie wanted to pursue fashion or decorating, a passion she shared with her mother. She even envisioned being a designer of purses. Katie loved purses and named her dogs Coco Chanel and Louis Vuitton. With all Katie’s privileged experiences, she constantly reminded us that she was “a down to earth girl”.
Try as you might to protect, guide and love your child you still can’t get inside their head. We want to somehow transform our grief and our sorrow to empower people to make one change in their everyday lives to fasten their seatbelt.