Night of partying ends in tragedy
College student shares choices he made in life.
Tom Knott will forever remember the night of Nov. 7, 2008.
A 19-year-old Hastings College student at the time, Knott started partying at his off-campus apartment with friends. The drinking eventually moved downtown.After a fight with a girlfriend, he left a bar angry and got into his car.
“I was too drunk to drive,” Knott told about 240 local and area church youths gathered at an interdominational event Nov. 30 at the Monsanto Learning Center.
While driving around town, the last thing the Ogallala native remembers is hearing glass breaking and his car crunching.
“When I came to, four blocks later, my face was bloody and I had a terrible pain in my left shoulder because I broke my collarbone in half,” Knott said.
Lying on the pavement crying, he said he was worried about being arrested for drunken driving and his parents finding out.
Ambulance and police officials arrived and Knott was put on a backboard.
As he was lifted into the ambulance, he could see another vehicle with the driver’s side smashed and paramedics working on someone.
He was treated at a hospital and then handcuffed and arrested for felony motor vehicle homicide. Knott spent the night in jail.
The next morning, he was arraigned in court and released to his parents.
On the way out, family members of the man he killed hugged him, told Knott they forgave him and were praying for him.
“They said they hoped I had the strength to get through this,” Knott said.
Back in Ogallala, he decided he had three choices:
to wait until his parents had gone to work and his brothers to school to steal money and a car and get away from it all.
to wait until everyone had left and kill himself since “I couldn’t think I could deal with what I’d done.”
accept the consequences.
Because of the love shown by the family of Jose Ramirez, the man killed in the accident, Knott said he chose the third option.
Ramirez’s family also asked the judge not to send Knott to prison. Instead he received probation with several criteria including maintenance of a 3.0 grade-point average, employment, doing 200 hours of community service, spending certain days in jail such as on the anniversary of the accident and on Ramirez’s birthday and visiting his grave.
The day he visited the grave, Knott said Jose’s wife, Roxanne, brought their toddler who grabbed nearby flowers and placed them where his daddy was buried.
“I lost it and started sobbing because all I could think was that the boy had done nothing wrong and he wouldn’t know his Dad and what I’d done to the woman who loved him,” Knott said. “I’m responsible for taking all of that away.”
Nearby, he said he could hear sounds from a Hastings College football game.
“It was surreal because I had been on that team two years earlier,” Knott said. “The choices in front of you don’t go away.”
These days, Knott is a student at the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
He shared a story about being late to class and having a pity party as he trudged through snow to campus. Knott said he then realized he was blessed to have a home and to be late for class.
“The alternative was a lifetime in prison,” he explained. “I was then aware of the importance of attitude.”
The support of his family has also been amazing.
“They never stopped loving me,” he said.
Knott has also found new friends, not the hard-working, hard-partying construction crew he worked with during the summers or heavy college drinkers.
“It’s tough to have friends that hold me accountable but as part of my faith, I believe in the truth,” he said.
Touching upon his faith, Knott said he was raised Catholic which, while growing up, meant going to church on Sundays and to Wednesday night youth group, saying his prayers and doing good deeds.
He said he didn’t have a relationship with God and led a faithless life.
These days, Knott is grateful he’s not in prison and that the family of the man he killed forgave him.
Knott quoted from the Bible several times during his talk, noting that he first felt salvation while driving to Lincoln for a speaking engagement.
“I had to go through a lot to realize it’s not about me,” he said.
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