WEST COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - When Debbie Williams saw the memorial to her husband destroyed from what appeared to be a car accident, the trauma of the loss hit her all over again.
Larry Williams, 65, was killed in 2017 after being hit by a woman who was driving under the influence. It was just a day after he celebrated his 46th anniversary with his wife Debbie.
Looking at tire marks on the side of the road, right where her husband took his last breath worried Williams. She couldn't help but think that if someone else's loved one was standing right there they could've died just as her husband did.
"It's important for people to know that these things happen, and hopefully that memorial sign was a reminder that people need to stop and think about what they are doing. It's been three years and the devastation is just like it was yesterday," she said.
Catherine Crumley plead guilty to felony DUI in 2018 in the case of William’s death, and she admitted to taking several prescription drugs the day of the crash.
Since then, Williams has been trying to spread her husband's story in hopes of preventing more deaths from DUIs.
But seeing what she says is evidence of reckless driving right where her husband died is only redoubling her efforts.
"People are still not taking this seriously and they are not stopping and thinking," she said, "All of my family...it still affects them," Williams added.
According to data from the Department of Revenue reviewed by The Post and Courier, there has been a 27 percent increase in alcohol sales from March to the end of June compared to that time last year.
In addition, opioid use was 52% higher statewide so this year compared to the same timeframe last year, according to researchers.
This is causing health experts to worry the pandemic might lead to a spike in addiction and more deaths as a result of increased substance abuse.
“We have seen an extreme rise in our suicide and overdoses,” Lexington County Coroner Margaret Fisher said. “It all comes back to people at home not being able to go anywhere and not being able to do much. The depression sets in and they self medicate...I’m afraid that when things do open up we have a lot of people now who were maybe not depressed who maybe were not addicted to drugs or pills [before]” Fisher explained.
Fisher helped Williams clean up the memorial, and as the two looked at the cross and flowers on the side of the road they prayed it would serve as a warning to anyone who was planning on making a choice to get behind the wheel while under the influence.
"Even if we can stop one person, [my husband's] death wouldn't have been in vain," Williams said.
If you or anyone you know are exhibiting signs of depression or addiction like feelings of hopelessness, loss of appetite, no longer enjoying hobbies or activities, and irritability, Williams encourages people to reach out for help. For 24/7 assistance people can call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741-741 to chat with a trained crisis counselor.