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Jaclyn's Death Leaves Two Families Grieving

It's easy to jump to conclusions about what led Carly Rousso, an 18-year-old Highland Park resident, to drive into a family, killing a 5-year-old girl. Ed Brill explains why we shouldn't.

Since the tragic Labor Day incident , Mayor Nancy Rotering and others have commented that there are two families affected by this tragedy.

It has been heartwarming to see the community unite in the face of unspeakable horror. . . Many more people have expressed their grief and sadness, on Patch and in other venues. My sincere and deepest condolences to the Santos-Sacramento family; it is often said that no parent should ever have to bury their child, especially not under such challenging circumstances.

Now that the driver , the sadness has turned to anger. Community judgement has been applied. She shouldn't have been driving, they say. She was a troubled child, they say. Her parents failed her and us all, they say.

I don't know the Roussos. Never met any of them, as far as I can remember. My wife has done some volunteer work at , where Carly Rousso's mother works, and my older daughter has taken some classes there. I have nothing but respect for the family's commitment to the community.

Within minutes of her name being released, Carly Rousso's limited online presence was being dissected for clues. Look at those pictures on Myspace, they said. Look at that tweet about drunk driver's education, they said. Look at her arrest record for marijuana possession, they said. Look, they said, those parents should have known, they should have done more.

That the Roussos are being judged for their parenting, by people who likewise likely don't know them, tears at my heart this week.

As parents, we all want the best for our children. Amongst the high standards of Highland Park, the pressure to be and do the best starts early. Waiting in line before dawn to get into . Worrying about whether preschool teachers are "good" or not. IEPs, Section 504 accommodations, dual language programs. In a community of achievers, the desire to raise another such generation drives exploration of every possible angle to position our children for sucess.

Again, knowing nothing of the Roussos, I am confident that these same community values drove their parenting of Carly. She enjoyed some of the spoils of affluent parents: travel, nice home, nice car. Many children in Highland Park and the North Shore have the same story.

Did her parents fail her, and us? Should they have taken different actions? I won't be the one to judge that. Having spent many nights agonizing about how to do the right thing for my own children, I know for sure that there are limits to what we can do as parents. Nature versus nurture, as it is often described. How much can parents do? How can we help a child who is already legally an adult?

Unfortunately, a family will have to eternally try to answer that question, for themselves, for a judge and jury, and for society. Will it set an example? Will anything change in Highland Park?

Whenever a major moment of grief passes, I have high hopes for the human race. Then I went to Starbucks one morning recently, and someone actually honked -- four times -- to try to get people to move up so they could place their order. I almost got sideswiped driving Green Bay Road as a driver switched lanes parallel to me without even looking.

Then I saw the , which my wife joined to represent our family. Hundreds of people who genuinely cared to grieve, honor, and move on. 
When my wife returned from the walk, she mentioned that had brought over carts full of bottled water to the memorial site. A simple act of human kindness. Maybe we will see more of these in Highland Park?

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Mara Meyer September 10, 2012 at 01:42 PM
Well said Ed. The community is coming together unfortunately at a time of horrible reality. One hopes that people will start paying attention to how they conduct themselves in general.
Violet Flemenbaum September 10, 2012 at 03:26 PM
Great piece Ed. You pointed out a lot of things that I'm sure run through a lot of our minds. My hope is that someday something positive can come out of this tragedy.
jab Zion September 10, 2012 at 06:40 PM
I couldn't agree more! this is a tragedy and is an extremely sad thing for both the families! what happened is wrong bit to blame the "north shore "/ parents is not going to help! we need to work as a community to make the north shore safe!
Deerfield Resident September 10, 2012 at 09:31 PM
Sad for both families? Sad for the little girls family yes! Outrage for the Rouso family....sure they better be sad for the little girl but better not be for theirs....she's a mess and they have no excuse not knowing!!!! Imagine actually giving her car keys!!!!! I'd quit my "art" job and work on raising a better child instead of releasing her on society!
Deerfield Resident September 10, 2012 at 09:53 PM
I re-read your article Ed and I find your lack of condemnation of the Roussos appalling. Just because she's 18 and an "adult" still gives the parents full control if she's living at home. Stop going to work....stop going out to dinner....start watching your daughter 24/7. Above all...don't let her drive!!!! Yeah, she's an adult alright and will be tried as one!!!
jab Zion September 11, 2012 at 01:59 AM
I don't disagree with her being tried as an adult and she should be punished for what she did- no question about this fact but I do honestly think that this tragedy must also be hard on her parents. As a parent we do our best to provide what ever we can for our kids- no matter how involved they are in " social scene" we can't not and should not doubt their love for Carly! I truly hope that Jaclyn's family can find peace. And again, I do strongly believe that carly should get what she deserves and I hope that justice will be served-
di September 11, 2012 at 07:12 PM
Carly snub rousso should face the consequences of the choices she made... I dont know them but have lived in HP for 30 years and seeing first hand how this rich bratts behave and yes their parents have to be held responsable because I am sure this did not started a week ago. The fac that she has been in some rehab classes said it all.... This prob been going on for a long time hope she served some time in the slammer and live with the fact that she kill someone. My heart goes for the innocent and humble and even when money wont bring little Jacklyn back hope a big civil suit follows and serve as a way to other parents to supervise their children more closely, if you are aware your child consume any drugs and alcohol keep them away from the public or this story will repeat while parents look the other way thinking " no my baby does not do any of that" typical of many rich afluent bad parents.
Amy Parker September 11, 2012 at 07:25 PM
As a parent who struggled for years with troubled kids, please let me set the record straight. There is, in fact, a limit to what you can do as a parent. You cannot sit on your child 24/7. The person who said that may be well-meaning, but the fact is, they escape! They commit crimes. They use drugs, they drink, they steal things, including the family car. They are awful human beings. BECAUSE THEY ARE ADDICTS. Addiction is a disease, not a choice. It causes people to behave in the most appalling ways. "That's not the child I raised," I used to think. And it wasn't. It was a monster in my child's body. A monster called Addiction, and I almost didn't realize it until too late. By the time we wised up and got our kid into rehab at the age of 18, he was probably weeks from either an OD or an arrest. I look at the Roussos' situation and know that 'there but for the grace of god go I." My son has been sober for more than three years now, and I am grateful every single day. But I no longer judge other parents when their children run amok. As we say in Families Anonymous, "I will give others credit for many victories which are unknown." My heart is breaking for both of these families. Nothing will ever be right for any of them again. And this 18 year old girl will have to live with that for the rest of her life. A heavy burden indeed.
Amy Parker September 11, 2012 at 07:29 PM
What an awful thing to say. You have no idea whether or not these parents did everything they could think of to help their daughter. You have no idea whether or not they begged, forbade, withheld money, cried, or stayed up worrying all night long. You just don't know this. Please do not cast blame unless you really know it's deserved. Most likely, this girl is an addict, and these parents are in a special Hell that only a select few ever get to experience. Be thankful you're not one of them.
Amy Parker September 11, 2012 at 07:31 PM
I hope you will read my comment above. This is just awful. I hope neither family sees this.
Barbara levey September 12, 2012 at 12:35 AM
Amy I agree with you leave both families alone and let them have some time to grieve
deerfield resident September 12, 2012 at 03:15 PM
Thank you.....well said! We only have "perceived" control of our children. Your words hit it right on the mark. Those in judgement could just have easily been in the Rousso's shoes.
DeerfieldResident September 12, 2012 at 03:30 PM
Well written, Ed. No one should judge Carly's parents. Of course she made a terrible mistake, one that has cost a life and changed two families forever. I don't know either family, but my heart breaks for both of them. One life taken away so young, and one lost in the angst of teenage life and addiction. It's tragic all around and condemning the Roussos accomplishes nothing. Let's put the focus on coming together as an inclusive community where all children are loved, respected, guided and given the opportunities and resources they need to succeed in life.

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