RANCHO MIRAGE - As pink balloons are released into the sky, family and friends of those killed by drunk drivers remember their loved ones. 25- year old Celena Nava was killed in October when she and a friend were jogging on a sidewalk in Coachella. They were hit by a man police say was under the influence.
"Celena was a complete joy to be around. She always had a smile on her face-- probably even when she slept. She was just that person,” says friend Lena Ramirez.
People gathered on Bob Hope Drive and Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage to be part of a campaign called "Shutdown Drunk Driving". They held signs and stood in silence for those who have died because of drunk driving. Lory Gleason lost her son in 2002. "My son was killed by a four time repeat offender and the offender is now serving 27 to life in state prison for second degree murder,” says Gleason.
It was more than ten years ago-- still she realizes this coming Christmas is just one more without her son. "It does not get any better. It does not go away. I live with it every day,” says Gleason.
Congressman Raul Ruiz understands what these parents go through first hand. "It's one of the most heartbreaking experiences as a physician, especially in emergency medicine, to tell a mother or father that their child has been killed by someone who has chosen to drive under the influence,” says Ruiz.
Studies show the average person metabolizes one drink an hour. One drink is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor. "You think you're fine. You think you can get home. You think you're not going to get caught but don't take that chance. It's not worth it to kill an innocent person,” says Gleason.
She says the decision is simple--- you just have to make it. "Take a cab. Have a friend drive you home or just stay where you are.”
And as a community gathers to shutdown drunk driving, they do it knowing it came at a cost. "I know she's here today. I can feel her. She would be here with us if she could,” says Ramirez.