Barry Saunders

Out of a family’s tragedy, an effort to help others – Saunders

David Shannon would’ve graduated from college this year, possibly with a degree in business from UNC-Chapel Hill, perhaps one in city planning.

Would he have come back, I asked his mother, to help Charlotte with its knuckle-gnawing traffic jams?

“I sure hope so,” Katy Shannon laughed. “Man, that would’ve been good.”

It’s amazing that Shannon and her husband, Hugh, can laugh when you consider the tragedy the family experienced on Oct. 27, 2012.

That’s when David was found dead at 18 after falling at a cement plant in Carrboro. Police said the investigation into his death is still open, but that alcohol was involved.

The Shannons and David’s friends have been trying since the tragedy to ensure that his death won’t be in vain, to ensure that lessons will be learned from it.

For the past four years, they’ve held the “I Am David Shannon” 5K race at Myers Park Cross Country Course to raise money for a college scholarship for a Myers Park alumnus. David was a 2012 graduate of the school and was voted, among other things, “Best Future Husband.”

This year’s race will be Dec. 17, and if you’re interested in competing or just running and winning some of the cool prizes, you can go to and search for “David Shannon.” There are two other scholarships honoring David’s memory, one at UNC and one at Carmel Baptist Church in Charlotte, which he attended.

Katy Shannon said the fundraising race is held when it is because that is a period when many of David’s friends are home from college for the Christmas holidays. It appears that it has caught on with more than just his friends, though. She said more than 200 people participated the first year, and it has grown each year since.

How big of a problem is underage drinking?

Glad you asked. A Centers for Disease Control fact sheet from October reported that 11 percent of all alcohol consumed in America is by people under 21, the legal age. They’re not just taking a sip and spitting it out, either. Underage drinkers consume more, per drinking occasion, the CDC report showed, than adult drinkers.

Before you go “harumphing” and being all judgmental about the foibles – even the fatal ones – of young people today, dig this: you were once one, too. Remember?

Anyone who has ever been a teenager – or even known one – is aware of how irresponsible they can be, of how risky their behavior sometimes is. Who among us, having survived our teen years, doesn’t shudder 42 years later when recalling, for instance, the time we rode on the trunk of our buddy Darrell’s Cutlass Supreme while tenuously holding only onto the radio antenna as it sped down the 45-degree-angled swimming pool hill just to impress some girls?

Oh right: that was just me.

It’s almost distressing to admit that alcohol wasn’t even involved, so it provides no excuse for clearly dangerous behavior.

Asked if she thinks events such as the race and scholarship will help focus attention on the problem of underage drinking, Katy Shannon said, “That’s a side to it. The emphasis for us right now is ‘Hey, we’ve got this scholarship, and we are giving back to the school that meant so much to David.’ In our hearts, this is how the Shannon family is dealing with our loss -–by helping others with this scholarship.

“My husband actually goes back to Carolina and speaks to the pledges and the fraternities and sororities there and at Appalachian State University. He also speaks in the spring at Myers Park (High School) to the juniors and seniors the week before the prom, on the dangers of underage drinking. He’s speaking very honestly and poignantly, and hopefully, his message is heeded. If it changes the outcome for one person, it’s worth it.”

I’m betting that, if heeded, his message will change the outcome for many, many people – one of whom may live to finish college and go back to Charlotte and fix that traffic.

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, @BarrySaunders9