He was only feet from the site of a car crash that killed his son, 17-year-old Michael, on Jan. 27, 2007, when the car in which he was a passenger slammed into the traffic light pole at the main entrance of the high school.
Michael was a junior at the school.
The crash also left Ucci’s daughter, Marie, paralyzed for several months. The driver, Bret Clifton, who was Michael’s best friend, lost both of his legs.
On Tuesday, the site became the new home to a cross that remembers Michael and recognizes the teen driving awareness group that Ucci started in the wake of the tragedy — Get Real Behind the Wheel.
The moment caused him to recall the night after the crash when hundreds of people gathered at the site.
“The sounds, the people, the candles being lit, I mean it’s just imbedded in my memory and as hard as I like to black it out, it just plays again for me,” Ucci said. “But things like this have really helped me through a lot of my grief and knowing that something really positive has happened.”
Ucci said it’s important to use the cross as a focal point for teaching a new generation of teenage drivers about his son’s story.
“It’s a very simple cross, but in itself it’s very elegant and in itself it tells a story,” he said. “We hope that when the young drivers pass by, they see this and it helps them realize the enormous responsibility that driving means.”
Ucci believes parents should spend time with their children and learn about who they are driving and riding with each day.
“I’m just hoping that parents come by and they recognize the awful tragedy that took place that night,” he said. “I also hope that they commit themselves as parents to becoming more involved in their son’s or daughter’s driving experience.”
Ucci was joined Tuesday by Lisa Encarnacion, whose son was killed in a car crash on Thanksgiving in 2002, and Lilia Vazquez, who got involved with Get Real Behind the Wheel because she has four teenagers.
Encarnacion praised Ucci’s efforts to start the teen driving awareness program following the crash. It meets once a month, typically on the third Sunday, at Altamont Raceway, where teen drivers can practice on the track for no cost.
“If you can make a difference with just one family not getting that phone call,” she said, “then it’s worth all the hard work that happens every month on a Sunday.”
Ucci is grateful for all the support he has received since the crash six years ago.
“It was unbelievable and beyond description the support spirituality,” he said. “I never forget what everyone did for my family.”
• Contact Joel Danoy at 830-4229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.