A new journey after a life changing tragedy
In an instant, the life Sandy Nugent had known was gone after an intoxicated driver struck head-on the vehicle carrying her two daughters Cristin. 12, and 11-year-old Katie Grubbs.
In November 2010, Cristin and Katie were going back to their father’s house after going to a football game. A woman driving a Dodge Durango, crossed the center line on Highway 105 in Vidor striking the Lincoln Continental. Their father, Grant Grubbs, called Sandy on the phone to tell her they had been in a “bad wreck.”
In the background, Sandy could hear the sirens. She rushed to the hospital. But, Cristin and Katie, never arrived because they were killed at the scene. When she heard the news, Sandy dropped to her knees sobbing.
“Having to walk out of the hospital without the kids was devastating,” Nugent said.
Toxicology reports would later indicate the driver of the Durango was high on muscle relaxants and anxiety medication. The driver admitted that before the wreck she had taken pain medication too.
The driver would later receive 8 years in prison to be served consecutively. She could have received up to 40 years on the second degree felony charges which carry up to 20 years each in prison.
Nugent waited to have children in search of the perfect time. At the age of 30 she had Cristin and a year later Katie was born.
“They were everything I lived for and why I am here,” Nugent said.
Since their death, Nugent had trouble dealing with her grief and began to dwell on things she would never experience.
“She got a minimum of 8 years and a maximum of 16 years,” Nugent said. “I got two life sentences.”
With the loss of her daughters, Nugent said she will miss the milestones in their lives such as prom, graduation, marriages and becoming a grandmother.
“She gets all of that,” she said of the offender who will be able to be with her children upon her release from prison.
“The numbness wore off and the pain was 10 times worse,” Nugent said.
Nugent’s life was bombarded with “whys” and “what if’s.”
Nugent was feeling particularly overwhelmed with her life, when she wrote to Oprah Winfrey.
She thought she would receive a response by email or possibly be able to talk to someone on chat line. But, instead, a producer of the show called Nugent. At first she thought it was a prank until the person calling began talking about what Nugent has written in her letter. Over the next few months, she had several more conversations. Finally in Oct. 2012, she was invited to be on a taping in Houston of the “Life Class.” A week before the show, they came to Nederland to tape some video about her story.
The guest on the show was Pastor Rick Warren author of ‘The Purpose Driven Life.” During the show, Oprah and Warren spoke a bit about his book. They showed the video and Nugent was asked to stand. As she did, she wiped a tear from her eye.
Warren identified her problem as being in “survival mode” to which Nugent agreed. She also explained how she felt cheated out of a life as a mother and the things she would no longer be able to experience with her children.
“You don’t get over grief, you get through it,” Warren said to her. “Fear and resentment will hold you back.”
He added, grief is a good thing.
“For your sake, you have to let it go and you have to forgive her,” Warren said.
After the show, she had the opportunity to further talk to Warren.
A few weeks later, Oprah was viewing the show before it aired and called Nugent. They talked about 45 minutes, Nugent said.
‘She is amazing,” Nugent said.
The talk with Oprah in conjunciton to being on the show and talking to Warren enabled Nugent to determine she needed to find her purpose in life. She had to decide what would best serve her life and the legacy Cristin and Katie left behind.
Oprah encouraged her during their talk to open her heart and let it go.
Before the show, Nugent thought she had nothing. Now, she has regained her life and found her purpose.
“All that negativity was consuming me,” Nugent said. “ I thought I had nothing and never would.”
Nugent said she had to “let it all go.”
“I can’t change those things… what happened, what she was sentenced,” she said.
Nugent also realized her husband Wes and her step-daughter were actually there for her all along.
“Once I realized that, we get along good now,” Nugent said.
She had started a foundation, the Cristin and Katie Grubbs Foundation and is pushing it forward in hopes of stopping someone before getting into a vehicle intoxicated and hopefully saving a life and bringing awareness. The foundation will provide scholarships to area high school students. To be eligible for the scholarship, the student must write an essay stating how intoxicated driving has affected them and what they are doing to raise awareness. They must also participate in school activities.
In addition, Nugent has given permission to the Texas Department of Public Safety to use photos of Cristen and Katie to put a face on driving while intoxicated.
For the first time in a long time, “I feel a peace within me,” Nugent said.
Nugent also realized grief is not something a person can just get over.
“I don’t like to say moving on,” Nugent said. “I like to say, a new journey.”
Katie and Cristin Grubbs with their mother, Sandy Nugent, during happier times and before the girls were tragically killed by an intoxicated driver in November 2010.