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By LeAnn R. Ralph
COLFAX — One year ago, on May 11, 2018, Colfax High School student Braden Lemler, age 16, died in a car crash on his way home from school.
The day before the Colfax High School Junior Prom this year on April 27, Braden’s mother, Kaylee Lemler — along with Don Knutson, director of the Colfax Rescue Squad; Sergeant Travis Mayer with the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department, and an EMT from LifeLink — spoke to Colfax High School students during a special assembly about the tragedies that can happen in mere seconds.
It only takes two seconds to be distracted by a text on your cell phone and drift over the center line.
It only takes two seconds to fall asleep at the wheel and crash into a vehicle stopped on the Interstate.
It only takes two seconds to travel more than one hundred feet at 55 miles per hour.
It only takes two seconds if you are impaired by alcohol to miss a stop sign.
It only takes two seconds to put on your seat belt.
Here is Kaylee Lemler’s story:
Our hope in sharing this tragic story is that every one of you will take the time to realize that two seconds can prevent your own family from having their own tragic story.
For those who don’t know me, I’m Kaylee Lemler. And on May 11, 2018, we lost out 16-year-old son, Braden, in a fatal car accident on the way home from school.
Braden was a great kid. He was a kind and old soul. Braden loved everything about farming, tractors and Johnny Cash.
Braden was the boy that first made me a mom. He was the boy who had to learn to share when he became a big brother. He was his dad’s favorite hunting buddy, his grandma’s sweetheart, and his Grandpa Jerry’s right hand.
On the morning of May 11, I’d like to tell you that the day started like any other day. Fortunately, that’s not true. And yes, I said fortunately.
On most weeks, Ryan, Braden’s dad, and I, would be gone or leaving just as Braden and Hannah would be getting up for school. But on this particular Friday, both Ryan and I had the day off. For me, this was a last-minute decision made the evening before that I was going to take that day off.
On the mornings that Ryan was home, he would make the family breakfast. And on this morning, Ryan was making breakfast, and as every morning, Braden was an early riser, so that meant Braden and I got to spend having breakfast together, visiting, laughing, catching up over everything that happened the past week and going over the details of what the family had planned for that weekend.
After breakfast, Braden asked me to help him place a memorial decal on his truck. Six weeks prior, Braden had lost a very close 4-H family friend and his dad in a farming accident.
So we placed the window decal on his truck, which provoked a very meaningful conversation.
That conversation went a little bit like this: you just never know when it’s going to be the last time you see someone.
I would not have believed you if you had told me at that moment that this was going to be the last conversation and the last moments I would spend with my son.
Braden and Hannah left for school that day, and Ryan and I began to take advantage of that warm May day we had. We spent the day cleaning out the garage, cleaning up the yard and mowing.
Just before 3 p.m., Ryan and I decided we needed to drive into Colfax and come to the hardware store to pick up a few bolts for a project we had just started that day.
School was going to be getting out soon. Hannah had plans, and she would not be riding home that day with her brother from school. Braden would be leaving school and coming home just long enough to change his clothes and head to his job on the farm.
Because Ryan and I had a few other errands, we were not going to take our normal route on county Highway M. As we left Colfax, we came to the intersection of 40 and Highway M where we met an emergency vehicle.
I remember telling Ryan, “That’s never good. I hope everything is okay.”
And we continued on our way.
We were about five miles down the road when we received a call from Grandpa Jerry stating that Braden had just rolled his truck. He had no other details of the accident, or even where the accident had happened.
By the time I hung up the phone, Ryan had our truck turned around, and we were heading towards the accident, trying to find it.
As we approached the scene of the accident, all we could see was the bottom of Braden’s truck as it had come to rest on the side of the ditch.
At this point, I can’t recall if Ryan even had the truck completely stopped before I jumped out and started running past the cars that were parked on the side of the road.
I was met by a Dunn County officer.
I said, “It’s okay. It’s my son up there. I can go.”
And at that moment, I could see in his eyes the words that were going to come next were not going to be good.
All I remember was him saying, “I’m sorry.”
At that moment, our life changed forever. Just like that.
We were told at the scene that Braden was not wearing his seat belt at the time of the accident. The cause of the accident still remains undetermined.
If Braden had been wearing his seat belt, the accident more than likely still would have occurred. But would he have survived?
That’s a question I will never know the answer to.
I can share with you this, though.
Even if the outcome would have been exactly the same, I am for certain that taking the two seconds to put on his seat belt, Braden’s death certificate would not have read, “catastrophic head, neck and chest injuries.” It might have read, “severe trauma” or “major trauma” but not “catastrophic.”
This is the most painful statement I have ever — or will ever — read: Catastrophic head, chest and neck injuries.
It only takes two seconds to change your life forever.
It may be as simple as putting on your seat belt.
Don’t reply to that text.
Speak up when a friend is making you feel unsafe as a driver.
Don’t let your two seconds be a catastrophic one.
At this time, our family has key chains for those who wish for one. On that key chain it reads, “Drive safe. We need you here.”
Our family hopes that when you see this, it will remind you take two seconds to change so you are able to come home to your family and your friends.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website, a total of 23,715 drivers and passengers in vehicles died in car crashes in 2016. And of those who died, more than half, 53 percent to 62 percent, of teenagers aged 13 to 19 and adults aged 20 to 44 who died, were not buckled up at the time of the crash.
When asked for permission to publish her story in the Colfax Messenger, Kaylee Lemler replied, “Thank you for asking, yes, you have our permission … Our hope is that it is a good reminder and might even