The crash on Cleveland Avenue that claimed the life of 17-year-old Carly Ferro was an outrage that touched the Rutland community at many levels.
The details of the story underscored the bitter injustice of a young woman losing her life in a sudden, violent fashion because of an act of gross carelessness.
It is a story of extremes. The victim was well loved by friends and families, a good student, a competitive golfer and basketball player, a girl who was leaving her after-school job when she was struck down. At Rutland High School this week students and faculty were still absorbing the reality of her shocking death.
At the other extreme was the accused driver, a young man who, according to police, was inhaling chemicals from a can of a cleaning product called Dust-Off while he drove through the streets of northwest Rutland at speeds up to 80 mph. Police say that, while he was in this state, Alex Spanos, 23, rammed his car into the car where Carly Ferro’s father sat in the driver’s seat, waiting to pick up his daughter from her job. Spanos’s car drove the Ferro car into a brick wall, pinning Carly between the car and the wall. Spanos has a criminal record that includes an arrest in New York state earlier this year for driving a car that was carrying crack cocaine, as well as a DUI conviction in Rutland County.
Spanos faces a manslaughter charge and assorted other charges related to the operation of his car. The Ferro family and the Rutland community face a legacy of loss, made more grievous because of the senseless, needless manner of Carly’s death.
Members of the Rutland community may now be experiencing a war between sorrow and rage. The sorrow is easy to understand, and Carly’s mother, Ellen, gave eloquent expression to her own: “She didn’t have a mean bone in her body,” she said of her daughter. “She was the kindest and sweetest and most caring young lady, and loved people for who they were, no matter what.”
Carly’s former basketball coach, Tom Geisler, said it another way: “It is such a waste.”
Inevitably, attention turns toward another sort of waste — the waste that Alex Spanos has made of his life. He has not been convicted of a crime, and must be considered innocent until proven guilty of criminal charges in this incident. But numerous witnesses placed him at the wheel of the car and saw his friends trying to hide evidence. A witness saw Spanos after the accident, not going to the assistance of the victims, but talking on his cellphone. Driving 80 mph on Cleveland Avenue is foolish and reckless. We have now seen the consequences.
Outrage over this incident and Spanos’ alleged role in it is altogether justified. People are feeling it to the core. Justice must be brought to bear, not because it can bring Carly Ferro back, but because it can help the community rebuild its faith that right and wrong matter. Reckless disregard for human life must be answered with an affirmation that human life will be respected.
A firm commitment to justice will allow the community to honor the smiling, positive personality that friends and family say belonged to Carly Ferro — justice exercised less out of vengeance than out of love for the life that was lost.
Police and other city officials have talked in recent months about the need to direct attention to the neglected neighborhoods and marginal people who have created a problem with drugs and crime in the city. This incident underscores the urgency of that task. When young men are allowed to languish on the fringes of society, untethered by connections to family or friends, living no sort of constructive life, bad things happen, damaging to themselves and others.
In the aftermath of Carly Ferro’s death, we must tell ourselves we can all do better.
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