R.I.P., Karen LaPierre

I’m sad to hear that Haverhill resident Karen LaPierre was killed yesterday morning by an alleged drunk driver.

Mood music:

Here’s what happened, as told by Eagle-Tribune reporter Mike LaBella:

Karen LaPierre, who with her husband Bill LaPierre ran the Angelo Petrozzelli Food Pantry at Sacred Hearts Church, was standing behind her 2010 Ford Taurus parked in front of 55 South Main St. at 5:20 a.m.

Police said she was struck from behind by a 2003 Nissan Altima driven by Lisa Leavitt, 37, of 15 Lapierre St., Haverhill. Police said Leavitt was traveling south on South Main Street at the time. Bill LaPierre was with his wife at the time but was not injured.

Police arrested Leavitt and charged her with motor vehicle homicide while intoxicated and negligent driving. Leavitt is to be arraigned on the charges today in Haverhill District Court.

Karen LaPierre was always at her husband Bill LaPierre’s side. Aside from their work with the food pantry, the LaPierres helped distribute Thanksgiving dinners to families throughout the city and collected Christmas gifts from parishioners to give to children in the city.

Every Sunday morning, the LaPierres would pick up boxes of doughnuts at Heav’nly Donuts to serve following Masses. When they would get to the church, they would start brewing the coffee, said Holly Roche, business manager for Sacred Hearts.

I’m sad for her family and her church community, but also for Lisa Leavitt, who was charged with motor vehicle homicide while intoxicated and negligent driving. That might anger some people, given that she was allegedly the drunk driver who ended a precious life. But I’m thinking of what my friend Mike Kearns said about this on Facebook:

“But for the Grace of God go I. There were many mornings when that could have been me driving in Bradford.”

How many of us have taken the wheel after consuming alcohol, telling ourselves it was just a couple drinks and we’re fine? A lot of us have. Whatever happens in court, Lisa Leavitt is going to suffer for this until the end. She was the instrument of tragedy. She made the decision to drive and now she’s going to have to pay whatever price the law hands her.

But she made the same bad decision a lot of us have made at one time or another.

There are a lot of times we get in the car and drive even though we’re impaired. It’s not just the booze.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve put the pedal to the metal when exhausted or agitated. Drowsy driving and angry driving kills innocent people as often as drunk driving.

I’ve also driven many a time while binging my brains out on $40 worth of McDonald’s drive-thru. When you’re stuffing your face in a compulsive rage, you are hell on wheels. I never hit anyone in the act. But I could have easily. Many times.

Let’s rewind to about 21 years ago. It was registration day at North Shore Community College, where I was enrolled for the fall semester. I was just out of high school and angry at the world for a variety of reasons. I had been working long hours in my father’s warehouse in Saugus and was rubbed raw. I was frustrated because a girl I liked was getting cold feet about the idea of hooking up with a loose cannon like me. It didn’t take much to trigger a temper tantrum.

That day I was rattled hard by the long lines of college registration. I wasn’t expecting it and was full of fear that I wouldn’t get the classes I needed. Not that it really mattered, since my major was liberal arts.

Two hours in, I realized I had to give them a check for the courses I was taking. I had no money and panicked. They allowed me to drive to Saugus to get a check from my father. I was in full road rage mode on the drive there and back.

I was a very angry driver. I would tailgate. I would speed. In the winters I would intentionally spin out my putrid-green 1983 Ford LTD station wagon in parking lots during snowstorms. While in college, I nearly hit another car and flipped off the other driver while my future in-laws sat in the back. Traffic jams would infuriate me. Getting lost would fill me with fear and, in turn, more anger.

It’s a miracle I didn’t kill anyone with my car on those occasions, because I could have easily.

I’m just glad I don’t do that anymore, just as my friend is glad he no longer drives drunk at 5 in the morning.

My prayers are with everyone involved in this tragedy. May the survivors find the peace to carry on.


4 thoughts on “R.I.P., Karen LaPierre

  1. I love reading your blog. You are so humble and honest and speak with your heart. I too am very saddened to hear the news. A bad decision has ruined both families. So very tragic.

  2. What a beautiful thing you remind us of the tragedy on both sides of this. We need to pray for both Lisa and Karen and for their families.

  3. Tragic. Are the names of the street and the deceased related? This is a horrible thing and everyone’s Christmas will never be the same, I’m so sorry.

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