In memory of Katlyn “Katie” Marie Marchetti
August 4, 1989- March 4, 2006
You may have heard about Katlyn “Katie” Marie Marchetti. She died in the early morning hours of March 4 from injuries she suffered in a car accident that happened the night before.
Katie, 16, and her boyfriend A. J. Lamantia, 19, were driving home to Valrico froma Lamantia engagement party in Sarasota around 10:30 p.m. A.J. was driving Katie’s 2006 Toyota Scion as Katie unbuckled her seat belt and reclined her seat to rest.
All it took was a second. A.J. dozed off. The car hit a guard rail on Interstate 75 and then a concrete wall, projecting Katie out of the car and into traffic, where she was hit by another car.
Katie died on March 4 at 5:53 a.m. in Tampa General Hospital.
Officials say that Katie would most likely be alive today if she had worn her seat belt. And now her family and friends want to make sure more people wear their seat belt. Their anguish drives them; they don’t want anyone to experience what they’ve gone through.
I recently sat down with three of Katie’s best friends to talk about their experience.
“I took that photo of her,” says Lindsay Adkinson, 17 a junior at Durant High School. “Katie was such a beautiful person.”
Katie lived a vibrant, happy life. She loved the color pink and music. She enjoyed exercising at the local YMCA. She liked school and had a part-time job at Dunkin Donuts. In addition, she was involved with The Ophelia Project, a non-profit organization for the empowerment of teen girls.
“You realize how much you love someone when you don’t have them anymore,” Joanna says. “I miss the little things, like seeing her come out of class between periods at school. She was so excited to just go to class and be a student. She was working hard to get a 4.0 GPA for college.
“Katie had dreams of studying interior design or fashion at Florida State University and joining her mother’s sorority, Delta Delta Delta. She named her pet dogs Coco Chanel and Louis Vuitton.
“Katie loved to shop. She always had beautiful jewelry and designer purses, but was the most loving, giving person I knew,” adds Kaye. “She wasn’t stuck up, even though she had such nice things.
“Katie loved laughing as much as she loved fashion, says Lindsay.
“She had a great, big, genuine laugh that made you laugh just hearing it,” Lindsay says. “I think my favorite memory was going canoeing with Katie. One time, I flipped over my canoe and Katie laughed and laughed. She loved telling that story.”
A Night of Sorrow
The three friends won’t soon forget the events of March 4.
“I was the first one to find out about the accident,” Lindsay says quietly. “I had just gotten off of work that night, and while I usually call my boyfriend first, I called Katie instead. A.J. picked up the phone and was screaming. I couldn’t understand him. The accident had just happened and I heard him say Katie’s name over and over again. I hung up and called Katie’s mom.
“This wasn’t the first time the friends drove to a hospital because of a car accident. About a year prior, Joanna and Kaye were driving on slick roads and hit an electric pole.
Joanna was driving.
“I didn’t have my seat belt on, but Kaye did. And because of it, she saved both of our lives,” Joanna says. “The impact threw me against Kaye and her body literally stopped me. If she hadn’t been strapped in, she would have flown through the wind shield and I would have flown out the passenger side.
“Kaye suffered head injuries and fell into a coma. When Kaye came out of her coma, she had to wear a special brace called a halo to prevent her neck and head from moving.
“When we heard about Katie, we thought, ‘Out of our group of four friends, three were in bad accidents. What are the odds?'” Kaye says. “But we believed she would be okay; after all were okay after our accident.
“On the night of Katie’s accident, the girls stayed at the hospital all night with their mothers. Kaye kept encouraging everyone saying, “Katie’s gonna be all right.”
And for a moment everyone really did think Katie would be okay.”
At one point, the doctors moved Katie to intensive care and we thought it was a good sign,” Lindsay says. “We were all going to go home.”
But Katie started bleeding again, and the unthinkable happened.
“There had to be eight surgeons in the room with Katie’s parents when we found out that Katie died,” Joanna says, her voice breaking. “It was horrible, because we really thought she was going to be okay. It was like a mind game.
“Kaye reaches out to touch Joanna’s arm.
“You know how in the movies when there are surgeons there and they just walk out after they lose a patient? That’s exactly what happened,” Kaye says. “We let out a scream, something out of this world. I felt like the wind had been knocked out of me.
“Kaye says her knees buckled and the girls’ mother ran into the waiting room and held them up. Together, they sobbed.
“It was a pain so intense,” Kaye says. “I couldn’t breathe. I never felt so helpless before. We stood there screaming in the middle of the hospital for what seemed like hours.
“Lindsay listens to the memory as tears stream down her checks.
Turning Mourning Into Motivation
“So many people came to her funeral,” Lindsay says. “I think there were more than 1,500. Her death affected so many people.
“Katie’s family created the Katie Marchetti Memorial Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that memorializes Katie and encourages others to wear their seat belts.
Their “Cross Your Heart Promise” crusade encourages teenagers to sign a declaration to promise that they will always wear their seat belt when riding in a motor vehicle. In addition, the teens agree to ensure that anyone else in riding in their vehicles does the same.
“I think that when most teens drive they are super careful about everything since they are so new,” Lindsay says.”After a while you get used to your car and start to get comfortable and careless. Now, we are trying to get teens to understand how important it is to wear a seat belt everytime they are in car.
“Katie’s family and friends have gotten their message to the community.
The Marchetti’s took two bus loads of teens from Durant, Bloomingdale and Newsome high schools to Tallahassee on April 26 to promote the passage of House Bill 97.
Rep. Irving Slosberg has been pushing the bill for the lastfive years. His daughter, Dori, died in a car crash when shewas 14. She wasn’t wearing her seat belt, either. If passed. the Dori Slosberg Safety Belt Law would allow police officers to pull over drivers of any age for not wearing a seat belt.
Current Florida law requires all drivers to wear seat belts, but officers are not allowed to pull over a vehicle solely because the driver is not wearing a seat belt unless the driver appears to be under 18. While legislative session ended before the bill could pass, the issue is not over.
In fact, only five days after the session ended, U.S. congressman Mike Bilirakis told Katie’s story to the U.S. House of Representatives May 10 during the Marchetti’s visit to Washington, D.C.
“The experience in Tallahassee was eye-opening,” Joanna says. “The people against the seat belt law said they felt it infringes on their rights and tells them what to do. But if you think about it, every law ever created tells you what to do. And wearing a seatbelt is already a law; this bill would help police enforce it better.
“Some people say that you can die even with your seat belt on, but this number cannot be compared with all the preventable deaths where the victims weren’t wearing their seat belts,” she says. “It’s not logical, for them it is all political.”
The Hillsborough County Commission declared April 26 “Click It for Katie” Seat Belt Safety Day for HillsboroughCounty.
Durant High School hosted a tree planting ceremony to remember the students lost in automobile accidents. During the ceremony, about 40 of Katie’s closest friends spread red mulch around the tree.
Laura Marchetti asked the students to place their right hand over their heart where their seat belt would go, and asked them to promise to wear their seat belt.
Katie’s 7-year-old cousin, John Pelosi, told the crowd how he woke up on a Saturday morning to find his mommy and daddy crying. He described it as the saddest day of his life to find out that his cousin died. John asked the students to wear their seat belts so their families would not be sad like his was. Laura Marchetti says there wasn’t a dry eye in the crowd.
Katie’s family and friends would like to rent a billboard to spread their message and create a video about Katie to be played in high school drivers’ education classes. In addition, a fashion show is being planned to raise money for the foundation.
“I think what inspires us is our pain,” Kaye says. “Even if we make an impact on just one person, that’s one person who may not have gotten this message otherwise.”
Lindsay says she just wants other teens to learn from their experience.
“I remember reading stories like this in class or seeing commercials about seat belt safety, but never thought I would lose anyone to car accident,” she says. “But I did; I lost my best friend. Seat belts save lives. It’s that simple.”
How to Help
Visit Katie’s website:
You can download a copy of the “Promise Declaration”, see photos of Katie or leave a message for herfamily on the message board.
Send a donation to the foundation:
The Katie Marchetti Memorial Foundation
3601 Sugarloaf Lane
Valrico, FL 33594
Reach Rep. Irv Slosberg:
Ashley Cisneros is a co-founder of Chatter Buzz Media, an Orlando Internet marketing firm that helps companies and organizations engage with their target markets through inbound marketing via the Internet. Chatter Buzz Media, which won the Social Madness competition for the Orlando small business market, is a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in website design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and content creation. Prior to founding Chatter Buzz, Ashley worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, technical writer, marketing manager, public relations practitioner and freelance journalist. To see Ashley’s content writing, visit www.ashleycisneros.com. You can also reach Ashley on her Google profile.