COLUMBIANA, Ohio (WYTV) – The holiday season is a time for joy, but for Larry Pitner, it’s a reminder of who won’t be there to celebrate.
Now, he wants to make sure that drivers hear his warning message.
Pitner and his two daughters were on their way to dinner when they were hit by a drunk driver in Alliance.
“Kids just got out of school. We just had to take a couple movies back to Alliance, and we were going to get something to eat, dinner after that,” he recalled. “We went to turn into a parking lot and a person driving the other car was proved to be doing 20 miles per hour over the speed limit and hit us. That’s when everything changed.”
The crash happened on State Street. Pitner’s eight-year-old daughter, Summer, didn’t make it.
“Summer was just in such bad shape,” he said. “They took her to Alliance Hospital. My parents came in and told me that she wasn’t with us anymore.”
Pitner said he remembers that his daughters put out a board game that they were going to play when they got home — one they never got to play.
Eleven years after her death, friends and family continued to gather at Summer’s spot.
It’s decorated for the season. Next to her name stands Christmas trees and holiday decorations.
On the day she was brought to her spot, over 1,000 people came to pay their respect.
“There were so many people that we couldn’t get everyone through the line… That, right there, showed the impact she made on so many lives at such a young age,” he said.
Those that came spoke of a vibrant little girl with a personality that was full of life. It drew everyone to her.
“She always had a smile on her face,” Pitner said. “She always had glasses. She had glasses since she was just a baby, but they were always dirty. Always had fingerprints on them. You can clean them up, three minutes later, they had fingerprints on them.”
On September 26, 2006, someone decided to drive drunk. It was a decision that ultimately took a life and would change a family forever.
Pitner said he missed key moments in a parent’s life.
“When they turn 16 and get their license, graduate school, when they enroll for college — that’s stuff that I’ll never be able to see Summer do,” he said.
Summer would have graduated high school this past year.
This week, Pitner’s public service announcement with Columbiana Ford will be seen across the Valley with a simple message:
“Just don’t drink and drive,” Pinter said. “She was a great kid, and there is so much stuff that we’ll never get, even when she is an adult. We’ll never get to experience with her.”