Danielle Duarte is on a mission—not just to honor the memory of her late father, Benny Alvarez Casarez Jr., but to prevent someone else in Tucson from needlessly dying due to road rage. Casarez was shot Aug. 1 in a parking lot at Fort Lowell Road and Campbell Avenue by a man who was reportedly angry because Casarez cut him off. Duarte is working with AAA, Ron Barber and the Tucson Young Professionals to create a campaign and events to raise awareness. In March, Duarte is planning Cruise for Control, a traffic-awareness day. For more info or to get involved, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
While we are out there driving, what do you want us to think about?
I truly believe that road rage gets back to living in the moment and the golden rule: When you are driving, don't text; don't drink; don't be thinking about other things out of your control, but drive and be attentive. Be responsible and respectful, and treat others the way you want to be treated.
The day your father was shot, you were going to be on TV promoting Tucson's Birthday festivities, right?
My mother was going to set her DVR to record the show, and that's how she found out about my father. It was on the news. She saw the car and knew immediately.
What did you do once you realized you wanted to honor your father?
I talked to (Gabrielle Giffords' district director) Ron Barber on how we can talk about being civil to each other. We all live in the same community; we all have things we are dealing with. I want to start to get more out there on how we can all be more courteous or even plan ahead. I also talked to the AAA Founda-tion to find out about getting together a service announcement or a billboard.
Honoring your father is important to you right now.
That's my thing: I don't want him to die in vain if I can save someone else. People have said to me, "I think about your dad and how wonderful he was," and they (now) act differently on the road. Or the other day, I was going to be late for a meeting, so instead of rushing out, I took the phone and called ahead, rather than speeding off. ... It's not the end of the world if I am five minutes late.
What have you learned since this happened?
I was reading different stats and met a guy from an advertising firm who told me the same statistics on how many people really do carry guns in their cars—a lot.
Community reaction was strong after your father was killed.
They said it was one of the highest amount of calls they got at 88-CRIME. The outpouring was huge, but we are part of this community. My sisters and I all went to school here. My dad went to Tucson High School. To be honest, I was in a daze and slept maybe five hours in seven days after it happened. I still couldn't believe it. He was very street-smart. I wasn't allowed to go anywhere alone until I was 18. He'd drop me off and tell me, "It only takes a split second for something to go wrong. You could be at the wrong place at the wrong time. It's not going to happen on my clock."
What was your father like?
He was always there, and very involved. He was always there at every one of our games, and he would always give us incentives to do well. He was always a joker. He was serious about his food. We always ate as a family. We typically sat down as a family and ate dinner and talked. That was important to him.
How long were your parents married?
They never got married, but they were high school sweethearts. He'd say, "Why do you want to ruin a beautiful relationship?" They've been together 35 years. We just celebrated their 50th birthdays on the Fourth of July. He loved his backyard. On Saturdays and Sundays, he had the pool ready for us. He had a game room with four pinball machines. It was always so lively. We'd play foosball all night.
Sounds like a wonderful family. You're very lucky.
Why do you think I'm doing this? One of my friends told me another reason why: "Because you're the type of person who would make something of it. Others would break down, but you're going to make sure that this is never going to happen to someone else."