There was a lot of silence during the drive from the Tucson airport to my parent’s house across town. When we reached the gated community it all hit me and I started crying again and then again when I got inside and found my mum’s arms to run into. There was a lot more crying to happen during those first weeks from the three of us Nystrom women who had lost our father, our husband, our friend. We would not be alone in our grief as their were many others who would be pained and in tears. His friends, his church family, his coworkers, and all his students from the school where he taught after retiring from the USAF. We never got a chance to say goodbye. He was ripped from our lives so fast and so unfairly. All it takes is a moment. That moment happened five years ago today.
This is my story.
I tell it because you never know how much time you have with those you love. My father served as an officer in the USAF since the age of seventeen, was the navigator and bombardier on the F-111 fighter jet during the first Gulf War, and stayed in the military for over thirty years. As a military spouse my mum had prepared herself over the years for that official visit, if perchance something were to have happened to my dad. Who would have thought that it would not be a man in a military uniform at her door, but a man in a police uniform and a matter that would have taken place on US soil that would have claimed his life?
I tell this story because I would not wish this on anyone else. Sadly my story is so similar to many stories out there. Stories of families broken up because their loved one was killed on their bicycle by someone driving a car, a truck, or a bus. My dad is not the only one to have the local police department fail to do their job correctly. Every year more die.
This is a story of a girl named Faith Quick, who lived in Tucson, Arizona. Faith Quick had been charged twice by the police department. The first a drunk and disorderly charge and the second for narcotics possession. Faith Quick had been able to go through Diversion for both cases, something that should only ever happen once. Diversion provides many first-time offenders of specified categories of misdemeanors an opportunity to participate in relevant counseling rather than proceeding through the court system and establishing a criminal record. To be fair, Faith Quick should have only gone through Diversion once and had had a criminal record with the narcotics charge. On August 14th, 2008 Faith Quick was driving in a truck with her boyfriend while under the influence of drugs. Sadly like her name, Quick, she was too much in a hurry and driving too quick to observe what the other drivers around her were doing or notice the man with his bicycle.
This is a story of a retired USAF officer, a school teacher, a husband, a father, and grandfather. A man who instead of renting a car while his was down for repairs, decided to be green for the environment and take a series of buses with his bicycle every day to and from work to the other side of town. On this day he was headed to meet my mother and sister at a restaurant just across the street from where the incident took place. He was so close to having met them, so close to having made it safely to them. It is a wonder they did not see my father’s mangled bicycle as they headed home another way, due to the stopped traffic, wondering where my dad was and why he did not show up to the restaurant or answer his phone.
This is a story of why you should always be present and fully aware of your surroundings when operating a motor vehicle. Why you should never get behind the wheel if you have any drugs in your system and for good measure let me add never ever touch your phone while driving.
Five years ago today on August 14, 2008, Charles Nystrom, my father and grandfather to my kids, was struck and killed. Cars in the two right lanes had stopped to let him cross. A third vehicle, driven by Faith Quick, changed lanes to the inside lane where she hit, ran him over, and dragged him a bit further. The local media reported that “the cyclist failed to yield…”, yet did not report that the driver, Faith Quick, was arrested and later charged with DUI for marijuana. They media did care to share the truth about a man in his fifties, and instead took advantage of the students he taught to show footage of children crying over the sudden loss of their teacher because it was better for their ratings. I believe they later apologized to my mother after being confronted about their actions.
This is a story about how the driver, Faith Quick, later was sentenced to a mere 5 days in jail for accounts of being under the influence of drugs. She was never charged for more or a higher charge because there had been no criminal record or paper trail to build a case on her prior charges and offenses. The two cases of Diversion had seen to that. Had someone done their job correctly before perhaps I would be writing this story differently.
This is a story about the Tucson Police Department and how history shows they side with the drivers not the cyclists. Due to the massively faulty police work on the scene, the insurance company USAA would not side with my father’s case. My mum went on to hire a bike lawyer and hired two professionals who highly knowledgeable in the laws of the road, cycling laws, car accidents, etc. They both were able to determine that my father was in the clear for his actions that day and that there was no way my father could have yielded to someone behind him driving in a motor vehicle.
For such a great, kind, and giving man who served 30+ years as an officer USAF and a VFW from his time spent fighting in the Gulf War I still get very upset about how little the TPD did. Not to mention somewhere between the scene to the hospital his rings were stolen and never returned.
Faith Quick has still never been charged for my father’s death nor has she spoken any words to my family. When her sentenced was carried out my mum was in the room. Faith Quick had been upset that she would have to go to jail for five days and that her request to still go to work during those five days was denied. No remorse for the bad choices made or the life that was taken, but was upset because she could not make money at work for five days. Faith Quick now resides in Phoenix, Arizona.
My father was laid to rest at the USAF Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado where he started his career with the USAF with the class of 1975. A ghost bike was prepared and placed in the location of the scene where he died by my family as a reminder of his life that was lost and to all those who drive past to share the road.
SHARE THE ROAD.
Live Aloha. Remember Charles.
Please before you ever get behind the wheel make sure you are in the right state of mind to drive. Never drive if you have drugs in your system, if you have been drinking, are sleepy, or have issues on your mind that would take away from your focus on the road. You are sharing the road with many other lives. There is nothing so important that you have to be impatient, rush, speed, or check your phone. All it takes is a moment. Make good moments and good choices by being a safe driver.