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Memorial to drunken driver victims grows in NM
DWI Memorial NMCF10 5324341
Sonja Britton, president of the Memorial of Perpetual Tears-New Mexico National DWI Victims' Memorial , stands in the middle of the installation in Moriarty, N.M. on July 21, 2008. Britton's field of shattered dreams _ a unique national memorial to victims of drunken drivers budding from four acres of scrubby grass dotted with cholla cactus and yucca. - photo by Associated Press
    MORIARTY, N.M. — Tears drip on this patch of hardscrabble central New Mexico desert land — tears in steel, tears in concrete. A mother’s tears.
    This is Sonja Britton’s field of shattered dreams — a unique memorial to victims of drunken drivers budding from four acres of scrubby grass dotted with cholla cactus and yucca.
    Britton lost her only son in 1991 when a drunken driver motoring down the wrong side of a road near Durango, Colo., plowed head-on into a car, propelling the car in front to hit a motorcycle driven by Monty Bryan Britton.
    He left behind a wife, young son, a father, a sister. And a grieving mother who slumped into a two-year funk. ‘‘I was just kind of a void. I did seem to function all right, but I was just kind of out of it,’’ says Britton.
    But this 5-foot-3 dynamo pulled out, immersing herself with drunken driving prevention programs at schools in town. She thought that drunken driving victims and their survivors needed to be recognized.
    ‘‘When you lose a son or daughter in a war, there’s a purpose to that, but when you lose a son or daughter to a drunken driver, there’s no purpose to that,’’ Britton says.
    Not-for-profit bylaws were drawn up in 1994 and the Memorial of Perpetual Tears was off the ground — but ground is what Britton needed.
    The owner of a store stepped in, donating the four acres about three years ago, some 50 yards north of Interstate 40 in Moriarty. Other donations trickled in — money, building materials, labor, architects’ designs. And almost $1 million in funding from the state and some $92,000 from the city of Moriarty, which has adopted the memorial as a public project. The city of Albuquerque has kicked in $50,000.
    The total so far: more than $1.7 million.
    Currently, there is a two-acre field of more than 900 powder-coated gray, unmarked plate-steel memorial markers, each about knee-high.
    ‘‘These are made of steel and the reason we chose steel is because of the way people die,’’ Britton says. ‘‘They’re literally killed by a steel machine. In fact, we’ve done a lot of things here in steel for that very reason.’’
    Britton designed the markers, each topped with an S-curve, a portion of one curve representing the lower part of the eye. Tears are cut into the marker, falling from a corner of the eye. The site also has other sculptures, including to unknown victims.
    The ‘‘Field of Markers’’ represents five years of drunken driving deaths in New Mexico. The number of markers is updated each year — some removed if the latest year’s tally fall, some added if it rises.
    ‘‘It perpetually represents five years, so every year it’s adjusted,’’ Britton says.
    The field has room for about 1,500 markers. ‘‘I hope we don’t have to fill them,’’ Britton says. Her ultimate goal — no markers.
    ‘‘Someday, we will have a place where children can play,’’ she says. ‘‘We won’t have any deaths by DWI someday. That’s going to happen.’’
    But Britton doesn’t want to end there.
    ‘‘I could’ve stopped with New Mexico, but I just kept thinking, ’You know, there’s no reason why.’ We’ve got the room, why can’t we just represent the whole nation?’’ Britton says.
    She needs $1.5 million for a national memorial, which is to include landscaping, meandering paths and plaques for each state and the number of each state’s DWI fatalities for the current year.
    Heidi Castle, vice president of communications for Mothers Against Drunk Driving in Dallas, says that ‘‘we aren’t aware of anything else that is on the same scale as what New Mexico is doing.’’
    ‘‘It’s such a great way to honor victims of drunk driving,’’ she says.
    Crews are completing a 2,139-square-foot visitors’ center that will have streaming videos about DWI and victims’ testimonials.
    ‘‘I’d like to see the states join is. Send us any material that they would like for us to display, to show on our videos, to have available for the public that stops here. I want this to become a center for DWI information and the states’ efforts against it,’’ she says.
    She also would like to have a sculpture representing injured victims and their caretakers. She also foresees an outdoor fountain with a sculpture.
    ‘‘I have lots of dreams. Lots of dreams. I don’t stop dreaming about this,’’ Britton says.

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