Debra Long loves her son more than he’ll ever know.
Her love endures more than three years after James Daniel Poirier lost his life to a drunk driver on Oct. 23, 2015, in Inverness, Cape Breton.
On Saturday, Long came from New Glasgow with her son’s picture pinned over her heart, as she joined 50 other people in Victoria Park for Mothers Against Drunk Driving Canada’s Strides for Change run/walk.
“I think of you every day,” said Long, as if addressing Poirier directly. “I do believe my son is with me every day… It’s very difficult to get up every day. Somehow, I manage to do it.”
Poirier was just 22 when he died. Ever since then, Long has lived with post-traumatic stress disorder and takes medication to help her function and make it out to public events like Strides for Change.
On the night of his death, Poirier was one of two passengers in a vehicle with a driver who had consumed cocaine and beer.
After the crash, six 911 calls were made and Poirier remained alive for more than an hour before finally succumbing to his injuries. Three of the six 911 calls were dropped, delaying life-saving medical help.
Poirier’s autopsy report revealed he suffered no brain or spinal cord injuries and his life could have been saved, had help reached him sooner.
The second passenger escaped serious injury and fled the scene, the one thing Long will never forgive.
“I have fully forgiven the driver,” said Long. “He was very, very remorseful.”
After serving jail time, the driver entered a restorative justice program and Long plans on meeting him at a future date.
Meantime, Long used her experience to found Nova Scotia’s first chapter of The Compassionate Friends in New Glasgow, a support group for parents who have lost children, which also helps their surviving siblings.
Long has two surviving children named Kalen and Cohen, as well as one young little grandchild.
But Poirier was the youngest, whom Long still calls “my baby.”
At the time of his death, he lived in Port Hawkesbury and was an avid basketball player and all-star athlete, who also enjoyed volunteering in the community.
“He’s still my son,” said Long, fighting back tears. “I’m still his mother. I will never stop being his mother.”
Strides for Change is an annual walk held by MADD in communities across Canada. Its aim is to educate the public about the dangers of alcohol and drug-impaired driving as well as helping victims.
For more information on MADD activities in the province, please visit https://madd.ca/pages/tag/nova-scotia/.
To report an impaired driver or for any other roadside emergency, please dial 911 for immediate assistance.