A group of 12 youth and six
adults traveled to Washington, D.C. for the Sorrow to Strength truck safety conference in March in memory
of Janelle Durk.
According to Janelle's father, Robert Durk, the trip went without a hitch and
they exceeded their goal of taking 10 local kids with them.
"It was an incredible trip and the kids made such a difference," said
Robert Durk. "It was a lifetime experience."
Durk said on behalf of everyone that made the trip, he wanted to say thank you
to the community for all of its support. "We appreciate everything
everyone did. "We raised about $5,000 in the Fenton, Linden
and Byron area."
While there, the group met senators Debbie Stabenow and Carl Levin and
congressmen Dale Kildee and Mike Rogers.
Durk said he was amazed that the politicians allowed them into their offices
and even allowed them to videotape their visits. The group pled for truck
safety, especially a law that would require trucks to have onboard recording
devices (black box) and to require trucks coming in from Mexico to
have to comply with the same standards as U.S.
Janelle Ann, a 15-year-old Linden High School
student, was the only child of Robert and Sherry Durk. Janelle's life ended
when her family's automobile was struck in a semi truck crash on Interstate 70
in Illinois on July 6, 2006.
According to Illinois police, a truck driver who was traveling in front of the Durks' vehicle
had fallen asleep and crashed into a guard rail. While the Durks and other
motorists were stopped for that crash, their vehicle was rear-ended by another
semi truck. In addition to Janelle, the driver of the second truck also died.
Following Janelle's death, her parents have been on a mission to not have their
daughter's life be in vain and to urge lawmakers to push for truck safety
The Durks have said previously that everyone has had a truck horror story and
they want to change that.
As part of a four-day "Sorrow to Strength" conference, truck crash
victims who are members of the Truck Safety Coalition, which is the umbrella
group for Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH) and Parents Against
Tired Truckers (P.A.T.T.), joined with representatives of
Advocates for Highway
and Auto Safety and Public Citizen to call on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety
Administration (FMCSA) to make changes.
During the conference the Durks spoke about their daughter. They told the
assembled group how their daughter was one month shy of her 16th birthday at
the time of the fatal crash and that she was their only child. They also told
of their outrage as they observed truck drivers "flying past us almost as
if we were standing still.
"They had to have been going at least 85 miles an hour."
The Durks said their daughter's death was not caused by just one truck driver,
but two, when they were rear-ended in stopped traffic. "In the backseat,
Janelle sat bleeding and unconscious, and still buckled in her seatbelt. She
passed away later that night at a hospital in Terre Haute, Ind."
The Durks spoke of how these senseless deaths and injuries are the result of
truck drivers who are pushed to the limit by the companies they work for.
"It is time for our federal government to step up to its neglected
responsibility to lead on this nationwide public health and safety
In their speech, the Durks said they are working hard to turn their sorrow into
something positive to honor Janelle. "We will not go quietly.
"We want our daughter's life and spirit to be a living tribute to the
power of people working together, dedicated to the very basic principle of
life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - free of the threat of violence on
ŠTri-County Times 2007
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