Founder Bruce Murakami's Story

 

On November 16, 1998, I lost my beautiful wife, Cindy, and precious daughter, Chelsea, in a horrific car crash. The crash occurred when my wife pulled out of a grocery store parking lot in Tampa and was broadsided by a teenager who was street racing down a major city road.

As I was leaving our home, I noticed the smoke from the wreck billowing above the houses in my neighborhood, so I decided to drive by and see what had happened. Actually, something inside pulled me there. When I came upon the crash and realized it was my family trapped inside the van, I was devastated. I literally blacked out, and when I came to, I was numb. For months after that, I went the through the motions of each day in a zombie-like state not caring much about life.

However, there was one thing I did care about, and that was clearing Cindy's name and bringing justice to the person who had killed her and Chelsea. Later, I learned that the driver who had caused the crash was a 19-year-old named Justin Cabezas.

For many agonizing months, I dealt with all the legal issues of the crash and with the excruciating pain of the loss of my family. During that time, I read voraciously and sought counsel with my pastor. I wanted to know what I could do to move on. Finally, I realized that the only way I could really move on was to forgive Justin.

Once the idea of forgiveness flowed into my mind and heart, I started thinking how I could turn something so negative into something positive. Then, this seemingly crazy idea came into my head—an idea so crazy that I couldn't even believe it at first. I started thinking about what might happen if Justin and I talked to teenagers together about driving and responsibility. I started thinking that maybe we could we teach them about responsibility behind the wheel of a car and in life.

So, in an emotional and painful meeting, I talked with Justin. It was just the two of us face-to-face for the first time. And when Justin apologized, I realized he was in as much pain as I was, and I knew my idea wasn't so crazy. So Safe Teen Driver was born.