Bike run honors Peshlakai sisters
(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)
By Alastair Lee Bitsoi
SANTA FE, July 2, 201130, 2011
(Special to the Times - Donovan Quintero)
The thundering noise could be heard for miles as over 200 bike riders and the Peshlakai family descended into the state capital on Saturday to send their message to state lawmakers, city officials and residents and other passersby about the consequences of drunk driving.
Not only was the message loud and clear, it was also a time for the family to honor their angels, Del Lynn, 19, and DeShauna, 17, who were killed last year in a car accident by repeat DUI offender James Ruiz of Albuquerque.
"The reason for the bike run is because the tragedy happened in Santa Fe," said Darlene Peshlakai, who organized the 2nd Annual Angels vs. Drunk Drivers bike run in honor of her daughters. "A lot of laws are made here as well."
"I think they are heard," added David Peshlakai, the victims' father. "Hopefully this will change matters regarding efforts against drunk driving."
Both parents said Saturday's visit to Santa Fe was their 10th since the March 5, 2010, tragedy.
Since then, the family has received support. On June 25, it was no different as support flooded in from hundreds of people on the roadways, the various police jurisdictions that escorted the honor riders seamlessly through traffic, and friends and extended family from across the state, Navajo Reservation, and neighboring pueblos.
"The impact of the two girls being killed by the drunk driver cannot happen again," said Lorenzo Shaw of Gallup, who rode the Naschitti route with his wife Louise on his Harley, a 2007 Dyna Super Glide.
Lorenzo said it was an opportunity for the riders to show their feeling for the family and make a statement against drunk driving.
Daisy Candelaria, special events coordinator for the San Felipe Casino Hollywood, said the amount of support is overwhelming, particularly in the number of Native Americans who participated in the run.
"Even though you don't know who those girls were I feel a lot for the family," explained Candelaria, adding that it gave her a lump in her throat. "I hope they become stronger from this effort."
The riders carried posters with pictures of the Peshlakai sisters and messages of "Don't Drink and Drive," and pink and army camouflage bandannas tied to their bikes.
At the memorial site on Cerrillos Road, police and fire officials shut down the road to allow for the family and their followers to offer prayers and condolences.
Chaplain Jose Villegas, who has been one of the family's main support systems since the tragedy, blessed the memorial with holy water and prayer.
Alonzo Begay, husband of the girls' older sister Delacey Peshlakai, offered a blessing with sweet grass and a Native American Church peyote song.
Following the prayer service, the family released black and pink balloons into the sky before breaking for dinner at Santa Fe Indian School, where the Peshlakai family had been watching a basketball playoff game in the hours before the fatal crash.
"You guys are terrific!" Darlene said to the crowd that filled the SFIS cafeteria. "There's no more of a way to get a message across than bike riders. I cannot thank you enough for what you did. I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart."
"On behalf of Santa Fe Indian School and adopted family, the Peshlakais, I want to say thank you," said coach Cindy Roybal, whose team recently captured its second consecutive Class 3A New Mexico State Basketball Championship.
"It was phenomenal," Roybal said of the rumbling, roaring caravan that came to town with its anti-drunk driving message.
Following the accident, Roybal reached out to the Peshlakai family, and Darlene said, "If it wasn't for her I don't know how we would have got through the week."
She also thanked lead rider Bobby Martin, the donors, well-wishers and numerous law enforcement agencies that helped make the ride a success.
In addition to hosting the annual bike run, the Peshlakai family said their next effort is a billboard campaign to remind people of the cost of drunk driving.
"If you are going to drink, drink responsibly," she added. "You don't know what is going to happen."