FAIRFIELD, Conn. (AP) — Melanie Bassi's mother promised to wake her up from a nap with a phone call on Christmas Day six years ago, but instead, she received a message from police in her Connecticut hometown. A neighbor was concerned about a large package left at the home of her parents, they said, who were visiting relatives in Florida.
Bassi went over to her parents' house, noticed two patrol cars and helped officers bring in the package, which was from her sister. The package, though, was an excuse for officers to get her face-to-face.
"I remember them saying, 'This is not really why we're here,'" Bassi said. "The next thing I remember them saying is, 'Your dad didn't make it.' I think I almost passed out. Everything in an instant felt different and hurt, and I didn't want to be in my body."
Bassi's parents, Denise and Gerard Bassi, and grandmother, Linda McWilliams, were killed and her grandfather, Ray McWilliams, was injured when a pickup truck crashed into the back of their vehicle, which authorities say was stopped at a red light. The driver, who authorities say had in his system alcohol below the legal limit, Xanax and evidence of cocaine, pleaded guilty to DUI manslaughter and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Bassi started campaigning four years ago with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, which also focuses on drugged driving. She speaks to offenders and high school students, including those at the school in Fairfield where she teaches math.
Some offenders cry or stare at her with jaws dropped as she tells her story. Occasionally they tell her she changed the way they think.
"You feel like you're trying to make some good come of it," Bassi said.
MADD highlighted Bassi's case around the holidays, when drunken driving deaths typically spike. In 2011, 931 people were killed in drunken driving crashes nationwide between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve out of a total of 9,865 for the year.