Letter to the Editor

My daughter Justine Pillar, Class of 2010, is the young woman who was struck by a drunken driver over Homecoming weekend as she crossed Davis Street and had to be life-flighted to Portland. I am very disappointed the article “Student, alumna injured in crash” that was published in The Linfield Review, which seems to place blame on the two victims of the crash, even though the driver that hit them, Daniel Algeo, was quite intoxicated.
In the article, Aaron Granum, stated that “the girls came out onto the road suddenly.” I would first like to point out that the author failed to take into account any other eyewitness or police statements and did not report that Justine and Celeste Wilson were walking across the street not alone, but in a group of four people when they were hit. In addition, the women had to cross one full lane on the street before reaching the lane the driver should have been in. Granum stated in the article that Algeo “did not seem intoxicated,” and he believes, “the accident was not caused by Algeo’s intoxication.” It was not mentioned that Algeo did not pass his field sobriety test, was not able to stand on one leg and blew a 0.2 (2 ½ times over the legal limit for driving in Oregon) when he hit the victims. I have to wonder, was Granum’s perception of the incident the eyewitness account of a sober student?


-Robbie West Pillar

3 Comments on Letter to the Editor

  1. Matthew Sunderland // November 8, 2010 at 12:22 am //

    Hello Robbie, my name is Matthew Sunderland and I’m the Senior Reporter for the Linfield Review. First of all, I’d like to say that I am truly sorry about the tragic accident involving your daughter, and I pray that she is recovering quickly. Coming from someone who has a bit of an irrational fear of hitting others while driving, I cannot say enough that my heart goes out to your daughter and your family.
    That said, like you were with our article, I am extremely dissapointed with this letter to the editor, and the illogical viewpoint against Aaron Granum that it seems to take. I first will admit a bias; that Granum is my friend. Thus, as you can imagine, seeing your friend attacked doesn’t make you feel good. More importantly, however, I am not sure as to what exactly your point in attacking him is? He had nothing to do with the incident, except for overseeing it. After that, he gave his account to our reporter the best he remembered it. I’m sorry that that account is not one that you agree with or want to hear, but he simply did his duty as a witness to tell what he remembered. However, you have attacked him for this and almost seem to place some of the blame of the accident through him, at least through you tone. Don’t get me wrong, if you feel that our article was not up to standards, that’s one thing. I don’t know why his account of the accident was the only one published, and furthermore, I agree with you. The article should have been more in depth. However, that does not change the fact that the account he gave does not warrant your attack against him. The article clearly mentions Algeo’s guilt as a drunk driver, and in no place says anything along what you have stated as, “placing blame on the two victims of the crash.” Further, whether your daughter was in a group or not, or whether they came onto the road suddenly or not, does not change the fact that the girls were hit by a car when they should not have been. So again, I’m not seeing why Granum’s account is under fire here. Further, I think you hurt your case by saying that they had to cross a full lane of traffic first. Was your daughter sober at the time, Mrs. Pillar? If she was, why did she and the group she was in not stop when they realized the car was not going to? And as for Granum’s account that the driver did not seem intoxicated, that is merely his opinion, one that is clearly inaccurate. The final sentence of your letter, I’m sorry, offends me greatly. There was no reason to put that kind of hostility and veiled patronization into print, and no reason to call Granum out on being drunk when you have no idea whether he was or not. I can tell you, from having been with him earlier in the night, that he was not drunk, and his account is one of a sober student. It is clear to me you are angry, Mrs. Pillar, which you have every right to be. But it is also clear to me that you are putting that anger onto people where it doesn’t belong instead of on the driver who hit your daughter. I hope you and your family will be able to move through this incident as gracefully as possible, and I am sorry for any additional pain I caused by writing this response. Your letter offended me and thus I felt the need to respond.

    Matthew Sunderland
    Senior Reporter

  2. Justine Pillar // November 9, 2010 at 6:50 am //


    I appreciate your kind words and respect that you took the time to share your thoughts.

    The letter written by my mom simply points out the Review’s failure to include some pertinent information in the article. The original letter to the editor my mom wrote was much longer, however the Review will only publish 250 words. With just 250 words, she conveyed what you said and what I personally feel, “The article should have been more in depth.”

    I disagree with you in that I do not believe her letter in any way places blame for the accident on Aaron Granum and furthermore, I don’t feel she “attacked” him. The fact of the matter is that there are many eyewitness accounts of Daniel Algeo stumbling, not able to stand on one leg, blowing a 0.2 and saying, “I shouldn’t have driven.” So, when Aaron says he believes the accident would have happened if Algeo had been sober, eyebrows raise in serious question. You say the article didn’t place blame on the two victims of the crash… Who was Aaron placing blame on with that statement? I know the intent of my mom’s last sentence was not to accuse Aaron of being drunk, but rather to reasonably question why his description of Algeo’s sobriety differs from many others, police included.

    My mom said my friends and I would have had to cross a full lane of traffic before reaching the lane that Algeo should have been in. I’m not sure why you think this hurts her case. The key in her sentence is the word should. Do you know what lane Algeo was in when he hit me? I question your idea that I should have (in sober awareness) stopped when I realized the car was not going to. Do you know how fast Algeo was driving when he hit me? I don’t think stopping in the street would have been helpful. Did you know one of his car headlights was out? Do you know if I tried to run for my life or pull a close friend to safety?

    I hope you were able to see the letter written by my dad in thanks to the members of Linfield for their support and kindness. The only reason my parent’s letters were separate was because of the 250 word limit rule. Thank you again for wishing me well with my recovery. Best wishes to you as you complete your senior year.

    Justine Pillar

  3. Kelley Hungerford // November 10, 2010 at 7:11 am //

    Please note that a 250 word limit on letters to the editor is more than most newspapers allow. The Washington Post caps letters at 200 words, and The New York Times and The Oregonian both specify a maximum of 150 words.

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