“This guy’s gotta be drunk,” Don reported. “He’s over in the other lanes and runs off the road on both sides.”

We later learned from state police reports that Carl’s blood ­alcohol level measured 0.33 percent at the crash site, four times the legal threshold for driving after drinking. Don’s mother and girlfriend, passengers in the SUV, began to pray that God would protect whomever was down the road as the battered pickup raced away. The next victim might not be so fortunate.

Don followed Carl onto a residential dead-end street. After a mi-nute, Carl made a U-turn and drove back to the intersection of Highway 811 and Waterlick Road. He passed out at the wheel and sat through several green lights. The truck was still running and in gear, with only Carl’s foot on the brake to keep it from drifting out into the middle of the intersection. It had been over twenty minutes since Don had first called 911, and he wondered what he should do.

Finally, a police officer arrived on the scene and quickly opened the pickup door. He reported seeing a white male subject with his head on the steering wheel and a strong smell of alcohol coming from the vehicle.  The officer depressed the parking brake and woke Carl up. He then ordered him to put the truck in park, turn off the ignition, and hand him some identification.

Don, still on the line with the 911 dispatcher, reported that the man was getting out of his truck.

“So he’s talking to the deputy now?” the dispatcher asked.

“Yes,” Don replied.

After a couple of minutes, the officer ordered Carl to get back in-side his truck and stay there.

Not a day goes by that my mind doesn’t revisit that moment. Why didn’t the officer handcuff Carl and lock him in the back of his cruiser? Or at the very least, take his keys? Obviously the suspect was drunk out of his mind. Had the policeman stopped him from driving anymore, the future for the Barrick family would have turned out very differently.

Having told the reckless driver to stay put, the officer walked over to the Explorer to get Don’s account of the incident. He stood at the driver’s side window while Don began his statement, then stepped back to wave a passing car around.

Suddenly, Carl fired up the engine of his truck and sped away with a squeal of tires and burning rubber. He ran through the light at 811 and headed back up Waterlick Road—going eighty miles an hour, with his headlights off in the dark night.

Straight at us.

If we hadn’t been to the concert that night, hadn’t decided to stop for chicken, or hadn’t had to wait longer than usual for our order, we would not have been driving down Waterlick Road at that moment. But there we were, headed in the opposite direction from Carl about three-fourths of a mile from home. Just minutes earlier on his way to our house, Andy’s brother, John, had actually seen Carl’s pickup, lights off, sitting through a green light. He fig-ured some poor guy had dropped something on the floor of his car and was reaching down to get it. Now John, with his children Amanda and Andrew, was in our driveway with our other guests waiting for us to get there with the house key and the chicken.

Andy slowed the van to take the familiar curve just before the intersection of Waterlick and 811, where we would turn left to go into our neighborhood.

I had turned around toward the backseat and was talking to Jen, who was a little nervous that Brandon’s whole family was coming to our house for the first time. She was calling a neighborhood girlfriend named Kelsey to invite her to the party as well.

“She’s not there,” Jen said. “Should I leave a message?”

I never had a chance to answer. Suddenly Andy yelled, “Watch out!”