David Sterner relived the worst time of his life when he showed his presentation “DUI: A Powerful Lesson” on Tuesday, Nov. 1 in the Fulkerson Center. Tau Kappa Epsilon and the Black Student Union teamed up to invite Sterner to Missouri Western to tell his story. Sterner may have a DUI on his record, but this fact isn’t this worse part.
Sterner first interacted with his audience, asking them to answer several questions about whether they had done this or that while they were drunk. Then he told the college students to wait 10 seconds before they answered his next question: Have you have gotten drunk, driven, then killed your three best friends? Luckily, the crowd stayed silent.
Sterner was 21 when he was charged with three counts of 2nd degree DUI manslaughter on the last day of his spring break vacation in Florida. They were there for six days; five of the days, the TKEs took turns being the designated driver. The sixth and final night, however, nobody wanted to volunteer, so they chose the least drunk, Sterner who had a blood alcohol content of .17 — two times the legal limit in Florida.
Sterner played a video of him with his four other friends drinking and having a good time. They took shots. They drove to the bar going over 100 mph. “I better slow down so I don’t get arrested for DWI,” Sterner said in the driver’s seat. They danced ridiculously. Less than three minutes after the tape stops, his friends were dead. Pictures of the crash appeared on the screen.
All five of the TKE students were thrown from the vehicle as the car hit a tree. None of them wore their seatbelts. Sterner woke up in the hospital a week later, and he was visited by the police.
Sterner was out of sight after he started the video; he returned wearing an orange jumpsuit.
Sterner went to prison for three years. The maximum sentence was 45, but his friends’ parents didn’t want that. While incarcerated, Sterner was beaten up just for being a college student. Nobody likes prison, but if it involved his friends, he would stay there.
“I would’ve gone to the worse prison just as long as I got my friends back.”
He was ashamed of letting his parents down, but the thought of his best friends being dead hurt him the most.
“I would’ve given up anything just to have my friends back for 10 minutes so they could say goodbye to their families,” Sterner said.
Sterner’s words about envisioning having to tell his best friends’ parents their sons were dead really hit home with Samuel Goodroad, who is a member of TKE. The other members felt the video and the pictures really added a personal feel to Sterner’s presentation, and some, like Zack Kimmel, couldn’t help but tear up.
“I had to hold back; I was about to cry,” Kimmel said. “I don’t even care if anybody saw me.”
Not a day goes by where Sterner doesn’t think of his best friends, and, unfortunately, there’s nothing he can do about it but warn college students all over the nation.
“The message that he gives is more than what everybody needs to hear, especially if you’re in college,” TKE member Justin Edwards said.
Some other students, like recently crowned homecoming queen Jordan Carney, were grateful for Sterner’s presence at Western.
“It was really moving what he did,” Carney said. “I really appreciated him coming to speak, and I just can’t even imagine having to relive that over and over in your head, but if it helps somebody else not have to go to through it, I guess it’s definitely worth it.”
Sterner’s really got across his message to students when he brings up an old saying.
“There is the famous saying ‘time heals all wounds,” but it’s just not true.”