The video starts with snapshots of normalcy. Mom dancing by the washing machine, her son snuggling up to her on the La-Z-Boy, her daughter posing prettily for a selfie, the family shopping at Wal-mart.
The video abruptly cuts to a nighttime scene of sirens and a nightmarish news story: “Driver who killed siblings was 3 times over the legal limit for alcohol.” The mom dancing by the washing machine is then shown visiting her children’s joint gravestone, sweeping off leaves and adjusting their pictures with meticulous care.
The video, which has more than 28 million views on TikTok is a punch to the gut.
“All of them?” writes one viewer. Another: “This is absolutely heart-shattering. All 3!?”
Yes, all three.
Their mom, Dawn Simmons, was in the car with three of her nine children when a drunk driver slammed into them, killing 20-year-old Lindy, 17-year-old Christopher and 15-year-old Kamryn.
It nearly killed Simmons, too, both physically and emotionally. But instead of letting the grief swallow her whole, Simmons has turned an unspeakable tragedy into an opportunity to honor her children’s memories and hopefully, save lives.
The family was on their way back home from Christopher’s basketball game the night of Dec. 17, 2021. Also in the car was Christopher’s high school sweetheart, Marissa.
They were driving south on Interstate 49 in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, when 54-year-old John Lundy of Dallas, Georgia, got on the wrong side of the highway and hit the Simmons’ car head-on. Lundy, whose blood-alcohol level was .36, was killed.
“Mom got in a wreck. It’s not looking good, but she’s stable,” Ray Simmons texted his oldest daughter, 33-year-old Katie DeRouen.
That’s all the family knew.
The news of each of her siblings deaths came in slowly that night as DeRouen drove to area hospitals looking for them, only to learn they didn’t make it and that she needed to identify Christopher’s and Kamryn’s bodies. The family later got word that Lindy’s body was still at the crash site because firefighters were having difficulty getting her out of the crumpled wreckage.
Two days later, DeRouen would have to tell her mother what had happened.
It was in the hospital after one of several surgeries. Simmons had been asking about her kids and getting evasive answers. This time, she wouldn’t let DeRouen avoid the question.
“She told me they were all gone,” Simmons recalled in a blog about her grief. “I didn’t have the physical capability to take it all in. They tell me that I was in and out of it. I would wake up and say, ‘So they’re all gone?” All of them?’”
The coming months were a fog of anger and disbelief.
“The emptiness of the house screams their absence every day,” Simmons wrote in the blog seven months after the crash. “I never thought that I would miss having piles of laundry to fold. I never thought that I would miss having to stop at the store every day or a few times a day … I miss it all.”
When Simmons’ kids were killed “our family died,” she wrote in another post.
“All of our hopes, dreams and family dynamics were gone,” she said. “People who have suffered great loss don’t want the future or the present. They want the past because that’s where their loved ones are.”
With a little more time, a lot of counseling and a strong belief in God, both Simmons and DeRouen eventually found a new purpose.
They had partnered up with a Louisiana organization that talks to high school students about the dangers of reckless driving. Simmons gave a talk, and 364 days after the crash, the mother and daughter started their own nonprofit.
‘You can hear a pin drop’
The year that the Simmons siblings were killed, they were among 13,384 drunk-driving deaths that year, a 14% increase from 2020. That’s 37 people every day, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Through their work with the nonprofit and other local organizations, Simmons and DeRouen realized they could have maximum impact by starting their own nonprofit called Simmons 3.
Simmons has now spoken to hundreds of Louisiana high schoolers, showing them pictures and videos of her children, the crash, the funeral and their gravestone.
“While she was speaking you could just hear a pin drop the whole time,” said Scotty Owens, who is on the West Feliciana Parish School Board about 90 minutes from the crash site. He had invited Simmons to talk to 11th-graders at his area high school in April.
Many of the teens were in tears, Owens said, adding that his own 18-year-old daughter still talks about it.
“My oldest one says all the time: ‘I think about them whenever I get behind the wheel,'” Owens said.
Spreading the message
DeRouen has been spreading the word farther through viral TikTok videos. Several of her posts have gotten millions of views, she’s gained a following of more than 580,000 people and people from all over the U.S. write letters to the Simmons family.
“I just decided to make one with the kids to hopefully get the message out,” she said of how she got started.
One that she posted in January shows Lindy, Christopher and Kamryn dancing in Walmart and posing in Christmas pajamas before cutting to scenes from the crash and funeral. That was the first one to go viral at more than 11 million views.
“I was not experienced in posting online like that, and one thing just led to another and people caught on and we have such a big support group that closely follows our story,” DeRouen said.
She thinks her recent post on June 4, which has more than 28 million views, struck such a chord because a lot of people watching it for the first time think it’s Simmons who was killed in the crash, only to realize later in the video that it was her children.
“I didn’t even mean for it to be that way but that’s just how so many people took it,” DeRouen said. “And I think it was just shocking to see that she lost her three kids because that’s just unfathomable to lose your three children.”
DeRouen and Simmons are working to raise enough donations to give more presentations to high schools across the U.S., and allow DeRouen to work for the nonprofit fulltime.
Simmons is planning her first out-of-state presentation in Corpus Christi, Texas after a mother of eight emailed her asking if she could speak at her kids’ high school.
After each talk, Simmons said she’s in pieces on the ride home but that the emotional toll is worth it.
“I loved those kids so much,” she said. “As a mama, it’s all about them, their legacy, and making a difference in people’s lives so this doesn’t have to happen to another family.”
Top 3 3 siblings killed by drunk driver Synthesized by BSS news
Family shares traumatic experience losing family members to a drunk driver
- : brproud.com
- : 01/03/2023
- : 4.83 (798 vote)
- : A family is left heartbroken after three of their youngest family members were killed by a drunk driver.
Acadiana family remembers three siblings killed in wrong-way crash with alleged drunk driver
- : wjtv.com
- : 03/17/2023
- : 4.69 (461 vote)
- : Lindy Simmons, 20, Christopher Simmons, 17, and Kamryn Simmons, 15, were killed in the crash. The three siblings were in the car with their mom …
Driver that killed siblings was 3 times over legal limit for alcohol, LSP says
- : fox8live.com
- : 05/08/2023
- : 4.39 (234 vote)
- : 29, and claimed the lives of Lindy Rae Simmons, 20, Kamryn Simmons, 14, and Christopher Simmons, 16, all of Jeanerette, as well as Lundy.