Community needs to find cure for disease

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, May 21, 2008

It’s been almost a year since then-20-year-old Cody McJohnson got drunk, got in a fight at a local bar and got behind the wheel of his GMC Sierra with three friends in tow.

McJohnson was driving too fast as he barreled down John R. Junkin Drive past a Natchez Police officer. The officer changed his own course and began to chase McJohnson.

But before the officer could get to the vehicle, McJohnson had driven himself and his three passengers off a 60-foot cliff on Briel Avenue and crashed into a tree at the bottom.

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His three passengers — Nicholas Kirby, 19; Justin Wiley, 21 and Kristin Holmes, 15 — died.

McJohnson survived the accident, but spent some time in the hospital.

In March, McJohnson pleaded guilty to three counts of negligent homicide.

He will serve 15 years in jail and a lifetime in his own head.

The details about a four-car accident on the Mississippi River bridge that occurred at 4 a.m. Sunday are still sketchy. Police are working the investigation and awaiting results from a team who reconstructed the scene.

But we do know two things — alcohol and young people were involved.

Terrance Johnson, 20, and Kelvin Keys, 22, are dead. Another young person is in a Jackson hospital.

Though we don’t know for sure, it seems likely that vehicular homicide charges or something similar may soon follow for someone.

We don’t know exactly what was happening on the bridge at 4 a.m. on a Sunday, but it likely wasn’t anything good.

But just like the bottom of the cliff on Briel Avenue, the scarred spot on the bridge now means something for this community.

Both spots are red flags.

The sites are the symptoms of a deadly disease that no one cares to treat.

Parents who drink in front of their children raise children who will drink. Parents who buy alcohol for their children might as well pass on disease spreading germs. Parents who look the other way and pretend their child is not drinking are only fooling themselves.

The Miss-Lou has an underage drinking problem and no one is proposing solutions.

In both accidents minors and legal adults were involved, but all were still young.

We know that many teenagers will try anything. They typically don’t fear death like older adults do, and they simply don’t think bad things will happen to them.

When you combine the carefree living of teens with alcohol it’s a recipe for disaster.

And when parents buy the beer, pass the wine glass or simply turn their heads, they are giving their child a stamp of approval. Then next time, when the folks aren’t around, it’s OK to drink one more. It’s OK to ride in the car with your drunk friend. And it suddenly sounds like fun to race your car across the Mississippi River Bridge at 4 a.m.

Teens and young adults are old enough to be responsible for their actions, but they aren’t the root of the problem.

The community drinking disease starts with the fully-grown adults.

Adults have had life experiences. They understand the consequences. They have the power to create a cure.

A parent would never knowingly let a tumor grow inside their child.

Why is our community letting an easily preventable disease take more young lives each year?

Julie Finley is the managing editor of The Natchez Democrat. She can be reached at 601-445-3551 or