Lascassas parents Norbert and Sondra Braunwalder wondered how they would memorialize their 13-year-old son, Clifton, on the first anniversary of his death.
Clifton, a Boy Scout, was changing a flat tire on his mother's car when he was struck and killed by a suspected impaired driver April 10, 2014 on Interstate 24 near Sam Ridley Parkway. A Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper charged the driver, who is in jail while awaiting trial.
Rutherford County Sheriff's Office deputies asked the parents if they would participate in a DUI checkpoint in Clifton's memory. The parents chose the first anniversary of his death as the day for the Clifton Braunwalder Memorial Sobriety Checkpoint. The checkpoint will be from 11:30 p.m. to 1:30 a.m. at U.S. Highway 70 South (John Bragg Highway). The checkpoint is in partnership with the Governor's Highway Safety Office.
"Clifton would have been deeply touched to have someone remember him," said Sondra Braunwalder. "It's a great tribute."
Sheriff Robert Arnold thanked the parents for agreeing to participate in the checkpoint.
"The Braunwalder family will send a personal message about how driving drunk and impaired can take the lives of our precious children and other family members," Sheriff Arnold said.
Through the checkpoint, the Braunwalders want drivers to be educated about not only drinking and driving but not driving impaired by taking prescription drugs, pain killers and illegal drugs. These drugs may cause the driver to be sleepy and slow to react.
His parents don't have any animosity toward the driver who struck Clifton.
"Clifton wouldn't want us to hate her," Sondra Braunwalder said. "We have to learn to go on."
Tony Burnett of the Governor's Highway Safety Office, said the checkpoint will send a strong message.
"Out of tragedy, you will send a strong message not to do certain things (driving impaired)," Burnett told the parents. "Your presence and a picture of your son at the checkpoint are better than any billboard or ticket. It really is effective for people to listen. "
Sheriff's Patrol Maj. Egon Grissom said the memorial for Clifton will make an impact.
"I cannot imagine losing a child due to any type of traffic crash," Maj. Grissom said. "I want people to exactly imagine that. Put yourself in those parents' place. Maybe that will change your mind about getting behind the wheel after drinking or taking drugs."
The Braunwalders said Clifton died in the same manner he lived his life, by giving of himself and helping others.
He was an all-around boy who gave back to the community and helped others. He belonged to the St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church's Boy Scout Troop 538 where his father serves as scoutmaster. After Clifton's death, the Boy Scouts recognized his commitment with the Spirt of the Eagle Award. Donations after his death were earmarked to send boys to Boy Scout summer camps and two St. Rose students to Haiti for a mission trip.
Clifton was a member of St. Rose's youth group. He started on the basketball team and played center on the football team at St. Rose. His teammates retired his jersey in a touching tribute. He ran cross country and played volleyball at SportsCom.
He was "very compassionate" toward his teammates, his mother remembered. He reminded his coaches when some of his teammates had not yet had a chance to play, an action his father found somewhat comical.
Clifton was home-schooled through Rutherford Tutorial Academy. He took tap and clogging classes, danced in "The Nutcracker" play and helped with dance recitals. He cared about homeless people.
"He never did anything for recognition," Norbert Braunwalder said.
Since his death, his parents and sisters, Amanda, Nicole, Louann and Monica, have remembered Clifton by sharing stories about him. Their faith and prayers from both friends and strangers helped them cope.
They believe Clifton would have been very humbled by the way people responded by helping the family and by the checkpoint. They didn't want the first anniversary of Clifton's death to be a regular day.
"What a gift," the parents said of the checkpoint to memorialize their son. "We hope this will have an overwhelming impact on the lives of people."
In regards to the woman accused of striking the young man on I-24 one year ago:
After the wreck occurred in 2014, suspect Tina Wilson (pic. right) allegedly fled the scene. She was later arrested on vehicular homicide charges. Wilson was also charged with "Leaving the Scene of a Fatal Crash." She will appear in court later this year.
Not the first time to remember someone in such a way in Tennessee:
This is not the first time a "Memorial" checkpoint has been held in Tennessee. The most recent checkpoint that was in the memory of a driver killed by a drunk driver was in July of last year. That checkpoint was in Maryville, Tennessee and memorialized 71-year old Dean Dillard Key. The Blount County woman was killed in 2013.
In the crash that left the 71-year old Maryville woman dead, 41-year old Gregory Lawson was sentenced to spend 12-years behind bars. Lawson plead guilty to vehicular homicide and will be eligible for parole in 2017.
Lisa Marchesoni - Public information officer, Rutherford County Sheriff's Office