Drunk driving signs placed at site of DUI crash that killed Kirkland's Steve Lacey
By MATT PHELPS
Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor
July 26, 2012 · Updated 10:02 AM
The N.E. 85th Street interchange with I-405 is one of the most busy thoroughfares in the City of Kirkland. Nabila Lacey and her kids have avoided it during the past year.
“We have mastered not taking that route back from Costco,” said Nabila.
But she returned to the site on Tuesday at 1:58 p.m., one year to the minute that her husband Steve was killed by a drunk driver.
“We wanted a way to celebrate him, but not with a party,” said Nabila of two signs she purchased through the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). “We wanted to make a public statement.”
The signs read: “Please don’t drink and drive, in memory of Steve J. Lacey.” They were placed on either side of the overpass following a ceremony at a nearby park and ride, attended by Nabila, two friends and WSDOT workers. Her two friends hugged Nabila as the sign was unveiled and Nabila was overcome by the emotion of the moment.
Steve was killed instantly by Patrick Rexroat, who had three times the legal limit of alcohol in his bloodstream, on July 24, 2011.
Nabila purchased the signs for $750 through a WSDOT program that has been around for 15 years.
“We probably do this two times a year on average,” said WSDOT spokesman Dave Deede. “We see it as a very positive way to get the message out to the public about drinking and driving. We also hope it helps to bring a little closure.”
But the site has become well-known in Kirkland, with flowers and balloons appearing at different times during the past year.
“It makes me cry every time I drive by,” said long-time friend Anna Rising of the site where Steve was killed. “I don’t know if anyone who knows Steve doesn’t think about him when they drive by there … It’s nice there’s a tribute to him, besides all the flowers and little baskets.”
Nabila talked about how difficult the past year has been for her and her two young children, especially through the holidays and her wedding anniversary last Saturday.
When her son realized the anniversary of his father’s death was near, he gave some comfort to Nabila when he said, “’Mom we made it.’”
“It has taken all my energy to teach them that it is okay that we are a family of three.”
Nabila and her family have gained strength from good friends and the Kirkland community. Two of her good friends accompanied Lacey to the sign unveiling, her former neighbor, Rising, and Deb McFarlane.
“I have been friends with Steve and Nabila since they moved here,” said Rising, who is known to Nabila’s two kids as “auntie Anna.” She was also the first person Nabila called after learning of Steve’s death.
Rising said that she stayed with Nabila during the next two weeks “helping her to deal with things. This was a huge loss. She just told me, ‘the worst possible thing has happened. The police are here and Steve has been killed.’ It is still a shock.”
When a mutual friend told McFarlane what had happened to Steve last year, she was stunned.
“I couldn’t believe such tragedy could happen,” she said, adding, “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about it.”
Nabila said that one thing her and Steve got right was the friends they have made.
She said that her children’s school teachers, Bonnie Green and Luke Johnson, have had a huge positive impact on her kids during the past year.
“Steve worked really hard as a parent,” said Nabila. “But we lost the balance.”
Nabila knows the pain of losing a parent as her mother died when she was just 2-years-old. She also knows that there is still a long road ahead.
“It hurt the most during the teenage years,” said Nabila.
She believes the impact of the accident has been felt in the community in a positive way.
“I feel like when I pick up the Reporter there are less DUIs,” said Nabila.
The horrific events also helped to change Washington state sentencing laws for deaths in DUI incidents.
“It is never an accident,” said Nabila, noting that Patrick Rexroat, the man who killed her husband, was drinking alone prior to the incident. “How many more tragic incidents have to happen?”
Rexroat was sentenced to four years in prison on March 9.
Nabila hopes that what her family has gone through will save someone else from the pain of losing a loved one.
But she said that the Kirkland community has been good to her.
“If you build up community they will catch you if you fall,” said Nabila, who noted she has moved since the accident, but just a block away.
Contact Kirkland Reporter Regional Assistant Editor Matt Phelps at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-822-9166 ext. 5052.