Hoosier shares his texting tragedy 



In April of 2012, Chandler Gerber's life changed forever.

Then 21 years old, Gerber was texting while driving when he hit an Amish buggy, killing a teenager and 2 children and injuring 4 others.

Now, he appears in a documentary to try to prevent a similar tragedy from happening to anyone else.

That short film - available on YouTube and at www.itcanwait.com - has gone viral with more than 1.9 million views.

"I basically want to prevent anybody else from realizing first hand how big of a deal it is," said Gerber, now 23.

"I want them to be able to see the documentary and learn from my story that this is something I need to take seriously," he said. "This is something we need to prevent so that other people don't have to go through the type of experiences my family's been through for the last year and a half."

Mobile phone companies funded the documentary and hired filmmaker Werner Herzog to make it. It will be distributed to more than 40,000 high schools nationwide as well as safety organizations and government agencies.

It tells four stories that involve texting and driving accidents.

Gerber said in the film that he was reading a text when he crashed into an Amish buggy. He had just sent a text to his wife that said, "I love you."

He said he spent much of his time trying to figure out what to do after the crash.

"The first month or two, a lot of crying, a lot of depression, a lot of just kind of questioning why these things happened," he said.

He said that the night after the accident he couldn't sleep and he had never felt so alone.

But a short time later, Gerber received a letter from Martin Schwartz, whose children had died in the crash. In the letter, Schwartz wished Gerber the best and said that God is always there and to keep looking up.

"It was just an amazing feeling knowing that they had forgiven me and they weren't trying to get back at me or anything like that. They are an amazing family," he said.

Gerber said he has not yet met the Schwartz family but plans to sometime soon.

Gerber said he had many conversations with his wife about what the right steps were to take going forward and they decided that the most important thing to do is try to teach people how serious texting while driving is.

"'Beauty from ashes' has kind of been our motto for the last year and a half here. How can we bring beauty from a horrible situation," Gerber said.

First, he spent time going to local schools and telling his story and trying to stress the seriousness of texting while you drive and how quickly it can change your life and the lives of others.

Then, one of Herzog's researchers contacted Gerber and asked if he would be willing to take part in the new documentary, "From One Second to the Next."

After much thought and prayer, Gerber decided that participating in the documentary was the right thing to do.

The film is part of a larger campaign by AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Verizon called "Texting and Driving ... It Can Wait."

In the documentary, Gerber relives his story, which has opened him up for public criticism - and he's received some. But Gerber said he has received a lot of support as well.

"You have some comments that are saying, 'Hey you are doing a great thing, happy to see that.' And you have some that are saying, 'He's a horrible person. I can't believe that happened.' It's just one of those things where you're going to have some negativity when you step out a little bit," he said.

He motivates himself by remembering a famous quote by Aristotle that said, "There is only one way to avoid criticism: Do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing." Gerber said that while he could have laid low and avoided negative criticism, he decided to step back into the public eye because it was the right thing to do.

"I can live comfortably without any activity and backlash," Gerber said. "But if I do that I won't be using my story to prevent this tragedy going forward with other people."

Alec Gray is a reporter for TheStatehouseFile.com, a news service powered by Franklin College journalism students and faculty.

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