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Jaclyn's Death Leaves Two Families Grieving

It's easy to jump to conclusions about what led Carly Rousso, an 18-year-old Highland Park resident, to drive into a family, killing a 5-year-old girl. Ed Brill explains why we shouldn't.

Since the tragic Labor Day incident , Mayor Nancy Rotering and others have commented that there are two families affected by this tragedy.

It has been heartwarming to see the community unite in the face of unspeakable horror. . . Many more people have expressed their grief and sadness, on Patch and in other venues. My sincere and deepest condolences to the Santos-Sacramento family; it is often said that no parent should ever have to bury their child, especially not under such challenging circumstances.

Now that the driver , the sadness has turned to anger. Community judgement has been applied. She shouldn't have been driving, they say. She was a troubled child, they say. Her parents failed her and us all, they say.

I don't know the Roussos. Never met any of them, as far as I can remember. My wife has done some volunteer work at , where Carly Rousso's mother works, and my older daughter has taken some classes there. I have nothing but respect for the family's commitment to the community.

Within minutes of her name being released, Carly Rousso's limited online presence was being dissected for clues. Look at those pictures on Myspace, they said. Look at that tweet about drunk driver's education, they said. Look at her arrest record for marijuana possession, they said. Look, they said, those parents should have known, they should have done more.

That the Roussos are being judged for their parenting, by people who likewise likely don't know them, tears at my heart this week.

As parents, we all want the best for our children. Amongst the high standards of Highland Park, the pressure to be and do the best starts early. Waiting in line before dawn to get into . Worrying about whether preschool teachers are "good" or not. IEPs, Section 504 accommodations, dual language programs. In a community of achievers, the desire to raise another such generation drives exploration of every possible angle to position our children for sucess.

Again, knowing nothing of the Roussos, I am confident that these same community values drove their parenting of Carly. She enjoyed some of the spoils of affluent parents: travel, nice home, nice car. Many children in Highland Park and the North Shore have the same story.

Did her parents fail her, and us? Should they have taken different actions? I won't be the one to judge that. Having spent many nights agonizing about how to do the right thing for my own children, I know for sure that there are limits to what we can do as parents. Nature versus nurture, as it is often described. How much can parents do? How can we help a child who is already legally an adult?

Unfortunately, a family will have to eternally try to answer that question, for themselves, for a judge and jury, and for society. Will it set an example? Will anything change in Highland Park?

Whenever a major moment of grief passes, I have high hopes for the human race. Then I went to Starbucks one morning recently, and someone actually honked -- four times -- to try to get people to move up so they could place their order. I almost got sideswiped driving Green Bay Road as a driver switched lanes parallel to me without even looking.

Then I saw the , which my wife joined to represent our family. Hundreds of people who genuinely cared to grieve, honor, and move on. 
When my wife returned from the walk, she mentioned that had brought over carts full of bottled water to the memorial site. A simple act of human kindness. Maybe we will see more of these in Highland Park?

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Mosaic53 September 10, 2012 at 06:26 PM
This has been one of the most intelligent & insightful articles to come out of this terrible tragedy. Reading all the nasty Comments last week, especially questioning the Rousso's religion was just sickening to me. Let's not be so quick to judge others. That is my biggest take away of your piece, Ed.
forest barbieri September 10, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Ed: Nicely presented.
Amy September 10, 2012 at 07:05 PM
Thank you for writing this article. My heart breaks for the family of Jaclyn, of course. But I have also been sending up prayers for the driver and her family. I know as a parent, my kids are far from perfect and I try not to judge other parents based on the actions of their children. Must of us are trying our best and learning as we go. I wish all involved peace and mercy.
Holly Landan September 10, 2012 at 07:26 PM
Amazing article
Judy Pemberton September 10, 2012 at 08:28 PM
We are moving to Highland Park from a northwest Illinois rural town this month. The ongoing story of this instant on Monday, Labor Day, is such a wakeup call. Several weeks ago I was questioning our decision to relocate here...genuine rudeness in a grocery store, impatience, taking ownership of the streets, ignoring crosswalks. But those are the people who always seem to stand out, front and center. I have now read so much about the ones in all walks of life who have come forth quietly and steadily with no need for recognition. That is true north on the moral compass. Here are two families stricken with the deepest of pain...everlasting pain; and here is the opportunity to hold in hatred and hold out hope...for all. Thank you for your words of wisdom.
Larry Jones September 10, 2012 at 08:46 PM
I have lived here most of my adult life. My kids all went to school here and most of them are still living in HP. Take my word for it you will love it here. Just don't believe some of the negative quotes from those who hate the police and the politicians. It just aint so as this is a great place to live
Cliff Hanger September 10, 2012 at 09:52 PM
1) the money was raised on line, not through "community support". 2) those hundreds at the march and vigil were 99.9% brown skinned in a "community" that is 98% white. 3) all the grief on patch was largely empathy for the parents of the driver. 4) That "limited on line experience" spoke volumes. 5) "... act of human kindness"? Really, how about calculated (and far less expensive than an ad) marketing decision? Has the store taken food or even water to the family? Does this pricy store give food to the joke of a food pantry at the other side of that same lot? Nope, their manager said they were afraid of lawsuits. 6) Will Highland Park change? That depends on Highland Parkers.
Wendy Shorr September 10, 2012 at 09:53 PM
Ed, I also want to thank you for expressing what I have thinking since this tragedy occurred. I do not know any parents of teenagers who have not at some point agonized over their child's choices. I am filled with sadness for both of these families.
Larry Jones September 10, 2012 at 10:02 PM
Cliff Hanger:; It's really time you fell off the Cliff as you are taking a great article and making it something dirty. Go away, Bye, Bye!!
Cliff Hanger September 10, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Oh my goodness, aren't you the clever one Lee... As much as you apparently dislike them, facts are not 'dirty' they're just facts. And while everyone gets their own opinion, everyone does not get their own set of facts. Point to an inaccuracy or don't abuse yourself of the fine oppurtunity to be still.
Larry Jones September 10, 2012 at 10:24 PM
Cliff, you have just proved what an jerk you are! You would try to make dirt out of anything clean. Why not use your own name, so we can put imbecile next to it????
Ed Brill September 10, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Hey Cliff, there were people of all races at the walk gathered in peace. My wife was not 0.1% nor the mayors and councilmen. Please stop the hating.
Cliff Hanger September 10, 2012 at 11:02 PM
the percentages are correct, I never said there weren't a token few and that was noted by the mayor as well. As for whomever Lee is - you're not angry with my words, you're stung by their accuracy. Given that these posts are not local, but read by researchers at many media outlets, are you so sure you wish to display your ignorance? And now, please excuse me, I'm leaving for a service being held for a five year old child who was run down by a car here on Labor Day.
sarah baldwin September 11, 2012 at 12:25 AM
Ed- Thank you for writing. This unimaginable tragedy has stricken both families. Although I do not know the Santo’s, I am grief stricken by the whole situation. I was a participant in the ‘peace walk’ for Jacyln and was moved by the heartfelt support by all who attended but it doesn’t bring this child back. On the other side of this devastation, I happen to know the Rousso’s and as parents they are no different than the rest of us. We all are striving to guide our children in the best direction possible but sometimes it doesn’t work out as planned. Carly’s parents have been more than supportive of her. I recall hours spent with both of them as we proudly watched our daughters compete in HS gymnastics or other school activities where they were aways present. Carly’s mother has also given her time for years as a dedicated school volunteer. Her kindness and great leadership always attracted me to work on her committees. I can’t imagine what this family is going through it is incomprehensible to me. I also can't imagine the grief of losing a child. This should be a time for healing on many levels. My sympathies are with all involved. Sarah
Chilawyer September 11, 2012 at 01:51 AM
The premise of this story rests on subjective impressionistic pablum, not facts. The attempt to categorize the families of the killer and victim as morally and emotionally equivalent is simply appalling.
Queen 8 September 11, 2012 at 02:53 AM
Cliff you're an ass so stopping writing about Jaquelins death and all to do with her!
Alexa Raye September 11, 2012 at 02:54 AM
I agree. It's so easy to cast stones in this community. From the girl whose friends ditched her when she raped last new years eve in Chicago ( can we pass judgement on her friends in this case?) to the police racial profiling that gained national attention, our community is far from perfect. We can't control our kids 100 percent of the time. The judgement that has been passed on the Rousso family is terrible. It's time people in this town started following the Golden Rule... nothing will bring Jaclyn back.. Carly will pay the price, but let's let both families grieve in private. But this doesn't surprise me, the way people are passing judgement especially In a town where we have to have posters reminding us that Character Counts...
Chilawyer September 11, 2012 at 04:11 AM
I don't know Cliff, nor do I agree with all his comments, but I suggest, Queen 8, that before you rebuke anyone and admonish them not to write about Jaclyn's death, take the trouble to learn to spell the poor child's name correctly, with the name her loving parents gave her.
Lou September 11, 2012 at 02:16 PM
Cliff, believing in generalizations is easy. I am a "Highland Parker" and was one of the first to donate money for Jaclyn and her family. I mailed them a personal card also. It seems that in times of stress and grief, anger jumps out. Isn't that part of grief, the so called second stage. I accept your anger and hope it subsides soon. But it would behoove all of us to LEARN from this tragedy. We could all use a driving lesson to drive more carefully. We could all use a lesson to not use substances that interfere with our minds. We could all treat others better, with politeness and respect. Each of us could easily cause a similar tragedy without any degree of bad intention.
Cliff Hanger September 11, 2012 at 03:37 PM
not as long as there's still a first amendment...
Cliff Hanger September 11, 2012 at 03:38 PM
those were not generalizations; just percentages. Further, you are confusing anger with accuracy. Isn't it interesting how emotion clouds reason?
Larry Jones September 11, 2012 at 03:41 PM
Cliff, why don't you just go away, if you are looking to irritate everone on this site, you are succeeding
Cliff Hanger September 11, 2012 at 03:46 PM
pesky isn't it when facts get in the way...
Larry Jones September 11, 2012 at 03:51 PM
did you learn pesky in third grade? or did you make 4th grade?
Cliff Hanger September 11, 2012 at 04:01 PM
it's a word often used in describing the behavior of third and fourth graders - glad you recognized the appropriateness. No more responses to personal vindictive, that too is a naughty child's game.
Life is Good September 11, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Highland Park teen taken into custody in Labor Day crash......A Highland Park teenager was taken into custody this morning after a judge set bail at $50,000 in connection for a Labor Day crash that claimed the life of a 5-year-old girl in the north suburb. Via Chicago Tribune
Anonymous September 14, 2012 at 03:33 PM
I agree with Lee in that my family absolutely loves it here! Highland Park has the best group of people in that they're so willing to help one another, etc... but yes, they have a strong tendency to ignore crosswalks. Scary that we've almost been hit a number of times while crossing the street - even scarier is that it continues after this unfortunate accident.
Anonymous September 14, 2012 at 03:42 PM
How can you criticise the money that was raised? And before you demonize the 98% that's white, remember that they're probably the 98% that donated the money.
James M. Lynch September 14, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Ed; Thanks for writing a great article. I am with you: http://highlandpark.patch.com/blog_posts/keep-calm-and-carry-on-highland-park James
Lou September 16, 2012 at 08:44 PM
"The Mail" reported today that 4 people were killed and at least 8 injured in Las Vegas by a drunk driver who jumped a curb hitting a bus stop bench. Another drunk driver who also jumped a curb killed a man in San Antonio and received a plea deal of 15 years. Drunk driving kills over 10,000 Americans each year and the one evidenced based way to reduce the incidence of DUI is to guarantee long term driving privileges of those who are arrested for DUI. Of course, there is no 100% cure for DUI. But the law must get the attention of those who don't care about others. Therefore, I would advocate a 10 year loss of license of anyone stopped with a 0.08 BAC or higher or anyone refusing a breath test. Those suspected of drugged driving, there are many signs and symptoms of drug use, would be required to submit to chemical testing by blood, urine, saliva or hair analysis. Taking away the cherished driver's license gets the attention of all drivers, especially young ones who may not have enough gray matter upstairs. To be clear, plain ole DUI, without a crash, should qualify for license loss.

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