DWI: the impact on a New Rochelle family

Jennifer Taylor, whose twin sister, Amy, (pictured left) was killed at 29 by a drunken driver n New Rochelle last year, gave a heartbreaking victim’s impact statement at the sentencing of the driver, Louis Nardella, in Westchester County Court on Tuesday. I was only able to use two sentences from her statement in the story that ran in today’s paper. But if you ever wondered about how devastating drunken driving can be, take a look at what Jennifer Taylor wrote about her sister, her family and the driver who tore her family apart, and what has prompted her to work with Mothers Against Drunk Driving to lobby Albany for tougher sentences for drunk drivers who kill:

Amy Maria Taylor was born just one minute before me, weighing in at about 3 and 1/2 pounds, we were premature, born 6 weeks early, but I still managed to weigh in at 7 pounds.  Though Amy was born the smaller one, she got strong and fast quick, while I became the “sicker” one. Diagnosed with Asthma at 9 months was no easy task for my mother. Not sure how she juggled twins, let alone one who was sick most of the time. As we got older, Amy absolutely took on the “big sister” role, though one minute older than me she took care of me. The nights I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t breathe was nothing abnormal. We almost had a routine, Mom would get the car, Amy would help me get dressed and off to the emergency room we went.

Life with Amy was such a privilege, she was my sister and best friend all wrapped up into one person, her smile was infectious and she just made you want to be around her.  We lived in the same place our whole lives and maintained friendships that have lasted for decades. The Taylor Twins (as were becoming known as) were inseparable. Once Amy passed I had so many people tell me that they envied our relationship, some asked how we got so close, if we ever fought cause we were always together. We worked together, Spent time together, went to school together and lived together It never got old. Yea we had our fights, but they lasted 15 minutes and we got over it. We realized early on that we rather be the best of friends then just be 2 sisters.  Amy and I were happy just being together.  I’m really having a hard time writing about the kind of person Amy was. I can not put into words what she exactly meant to me, and what Louis Nardella took from me the night he decided to get into the car high and drunk, and killed my beloved Amy. Please allow me to try and explain what life has been like since ….

It was 1 a.m. on May 23rd when my mother woke me up and said “Jenn, there’s a bad accident outside and I’m tyring to reach Amy”. I looked out the window and what I saw was a scene from a movie, fire trucks,  cop cars, ambulances, people, lights…It was crazy. But I knew Amy left the house a while ago to go meet friends, and there was no way the accident invloved Amy, There was just no way. My mom rubbed her stomach, and said “I have a bad feeling, and I want to talk to Amy.” I told mommy to go lay down and that I would call Amy just so she can reassure my mom she was fine. I called Amy about 10 times and left about 3 messages. I had no idea that my sister was dying just across the street and the phone was ringing right next to her.

At about 1:40 a.m., my cousin Danielle called me frantic, she said “Amy was in an accident and they are trying to get her out of the car”. I flew out of bed, flew is an understatement. I left the house, I didn’t have time to wait or anyone, I needed to get to Amy, cause I knew she was probably scared and looking for me. I don’t remember walking across the street, I just remembered seeing half of my sister’s Honda accord. Half of it. Papers were everywhere, Papers she had from school. I remember glass, people, cops, It didn’t dawn on me that I didn’t see Amy until an officer said he would take me to the hospital. By this time my mother came outside, dad was still getting dressed, the look on her face I can never explain, I just knew I never wanted to see it again. She asked me what happened to her baby, and I said I didn’t know, The cops asked if we were ready to go, my mother had to wait for my dad. Left to go be with Amy, in my head I knew she was probably needing me. I never thought she was dead, never. I prepared myself for broken bones, maybe unconsciousness, coma, internal bleeding, I remembered wondering if I knew my blood type in case Amy needed a blood transfusion. When I got there Danielle, Brianne and Terry who are also a Detective, Sargent and teacher for the city of New Rochelle came out from the back and told me Amy didn’t make it. It felt like someone kicked me in my throat, then my stomach, then my heart.  I stood there for about 2 minutes and said, “I don’t want to hear that” and walked out. I never saw Amy again.

Life for the Taylor family will never be the same. I didn’t sleep the first 48 hours or so, if I closed my eyes and woke up it would be real, if i stayed up maybe someone would say it was a mistake. That never happened. On May 23rd my twin sister and best friend was dead and that fact is still very hard to swallow. I was a complete wreck, and of no use to my parents who were planning Amy’s funeral. I couldn’t deal with what to dress her in, what color casket, where to have the services. My cousin Heather completely stepped in and helped Mom and Dad thru the absolute worst time in their lives. Im so grateful for her and her help. What did I do? I laid in my bed, with the blinds closed day after day. I couldn’t even take my mother to view Amy’s body, my half sister Jackie did, I can never explain to her how much that meat to me. I managed to make it through the wake and funeral. To this day I can not tell you how, I can say I don’t remember much about it. Post traumatic stress is what my therapist said happened to me. Sometimes I ask my friends and family to tell me what the wake and funeral were like, I don’t remember most of the people who came, I don’t even remember what I said at the funeral. I have it written down folded and tucked away with all of the sympathy cards and letters.  Once the floods of friends and family stopped coming by reality set in for my family. My life sentence began on May 23rd. the walls in my bedroom became a cell I couldn’t escape. Some days getting out of bed was impossible. I can’t look out my window because I see the cross that was left to mark where my sister took her last breath. I was trapped. I hear my mother cry every night. Sometimes multiple times a day, I’m helpless. I can not console her because I can not console myself.  I don’t know what it’s like to lose a child and she doesn’t know what its like to lose a twin. So our frustrations build and we argue. I lost my job a few months after Amy died, I couldn’t keep it together, images of her coming in and smiling at me were overwhelming, I spent half the day in the bathroom crying. I was sent home so many times I lost count.

My mom, dad and myself haven’t had dinner together since she died, the 3 of sitting at the table without the 4th member Amy was too much. I remembered we so happened to be eating at the table and we were in silence, I looked up and saw Daddy looking at Amy’s empty chair and tears streaming down his face. I got up and went back to my cell, the four walls that used to occupy me and myt win sister. My father was the core and strength for my mother and I. He made decisions, held back tears as he spoke at Amy’s funeral, and even to this day keeps Mom and I grounded. Then there are the nights I hear him crying, saying he misses his kid. I see his face when he looks into mine, sometimes i feel like hes searching for Amy’s face. Holidays and birthdays are no longer the same. Last year Amy and I were anticipating our 30th birthday. How did I spend my 30th? Crying, putting flowers down at the site where Amy died, and sitting in my living room. How can I ever have a happy birthday? I always shared my birthday, always had 2 names on a cake, always spent it with Amy, this year it was just my name on the cake, after 30 years of joint parties it was just my name on a cake. Mom and dad spent Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are spent at the cemetery, I haven’t been to Amy’s final resting place since she was buried. I can’t do it, not yet anyway. So mom and dad go alone and I try to be the best daughter I can be for them.

My mom isn’t the same, there’s n emptiness in her that I can’t explain, She cries all the time, everyday in fact. She worries about me from the minute I leave the house til the second I get home, holidays are coming up and its like a silent torture for us. I’m in therapy once sometimes twice a week. I don’t sleep, I have anxiety, I go into panic mode if one of my friends are out and I haven’t heard from them. I’m depressed, I’m on anxiety and antidepressant medications, I’m afraid to go into supermarkets or other public places, I don’t want people to see me, or ask me how I am, or mistakenly call me Amy. I also still have her closet the way she left it,  My mother has constant chest pain, her stress levels are through the roof, shes depressed, and stays indoors whenever she’s not working. My father throws himself into work and holds everything in. We’ve completely fallen apart as a family unit. We’re doing the best we can to keep Amy’s memory alive and her name fresh in every one’s mind.

Rebecca Baker

Rebecca Baker joined The Journal News in March 2004. She covers Eastchester, Bronxville and Tuckahoe, and was previously the state and county courts reporter in Westchester County. In prior jobs, she covered the Town of Greenburgh and Rockland County government and politics. Before coming to The Journal News, she was a municipal reporter for newspapers in New Haven, Conn. and Warren, Ohio.