COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — When Dawn Cortez speaks publicly about the death of her son Donnie, she brings along a pair of his shoes. He'd left them at her house before going out with friends that fateful night and she couldn't bring herself to get rid of them.
"They're still tied the way they left them, and they sat there for about a year or so," she said. "He left them there so we left them there."
Donnie died in June of 2003. He was 24 years old. Dawn said that he and two friends were heading home from a nightclub and were four blocks from his house when the car rolled.
"They weren't wearing seat belts, and Donnie flew over a hundred, about 120 feet from the crash," Cortez said. "So, Donnie's body was not found for 45 minutes from the crash."
The pain of that loss never really goes away.
"We still grieve him. I think I will, as a mom, will grieve him the rest of my life," she said.
Families in Southern Colorado continue to feel the same heartache of losing a loved one to drunk driving every year. Master Trooper Gary Cutler of the Colorado State Patrol said more than 590 people have died in traffic crashes in Colorado in 2021.
Some 104 law enforcement agencies in Colorado are putting
additional troopers, officers, and deputies on patrol this weekend to look for and arrest impaired drivers.
"When you're impaired, then you're not staying in your lane. And when you're not staying in your lane, that's when you're going to hurt somebody," said Cutler.
"So, we're really looking for that and we're really cracking down on that particular one this year that if we see you going out of your lane at all, we're going to be contacting you."
Cortez joined Mothers Against Drunk Drivers a year after Donnie's death. She says it's helped to share his story.
"My Donnie always brought me roses on my birthday and Mother's Day, and so, I encourage them to go buy a rose for somebody," she said.
"Hopefully, I touch that one life that they'll remember my story."