Teen Memoriam Stories

CJ Russell

But, disaster struck twice at our house. Our family will NEVER be the same.

On August 14, 2022, our lives changed forever again. I say “again” because nine months prior to CJ’s passing, my 28-year-old daughter passed due to alcoholism.

CJ had convinced a new friend he had just met the night prior to let him drive his cool car to the friend’s house. The story we got from friends was that CJ had been up all night. It was now about 8:30 a.m. His friend finally relented to CJ’s nagging to let him drive his car.

CJ loved cool, fast cars. He didn’t have much experience driving, as he only got his learner permit a few months prior. They had taken the 2100 North exit in Lehi going southbound. CJ was driving at a very high rate of speed — around 100 miles per hour according to police. When you get to the light at the bottom of the exit, you can only go right or left. For some reason we will probably never know, CJ went straight. He hit a curb and went airborne. They hit the top of a 6-foot chain-link fence, pulled off 300 feet of the fencing and bent 27 posts.

They hit the dirt embankment on the other side of the fence head-on, killing them both instantly. After hitting the embankment, the car flipped and cleared another 6-foot fence and landed on the driver’s side. They did have their seat belts on, which kept them in their seats. But, that kind of speed breaks necks and tears arteries away from hearts. We have no idea why he didn’t attempt to stop. We do know he had high levels of marijuana in his system but that was it.

As I said, CJ had just met his new friend the night before. This is exactly who CJ is. He has so many friends. He always greeted you with a huge CJ bear hug. In fact, we called him the “big teddy bear.” The nieces and nephews and my grandkids adored him. He was a 6-foot, 3-inch, 250-pound big kid at heart. We have several pictures of all of them hanging on him and him trying to get away. That was their game.

When I couldn’t reach something, I would call CJ to come help and he would get it with ease. I asked him to help me move a big wood table. He said, “Just push it up on that side,” and then picked it up by himself and moved the table for me. He always did what I asked, usually with very little grumbling. As I am writing this, we just passed the one-year anniversary of his funeral yesterday. We miss him so much, along with his sister.

I plead with anyone reading this to be responsible when driving. Unfortunately, many families have had to receive the call that their teenager isn’t coming home. Our family has been beyond devastated by the two losses we have had. Speeding kills and alcohol kills. Neither one of my kids thought it would happen to them.

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