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Brian McGrory

A mother’s nightmare

By Brian McGrory
Globe Columnist / May 21, 2010

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It unfolded in the flash of an unimaginable instant as darkness fell on what had been a spectacular Sunday. There was a woman who shouldn’t have been driving, a crash that shouldn’t have happened, and a promising young man who shouldn’t have died. Most of all, there was a mother who shouldn’t have had to witness it all.

Colin Foote was a wonderful 27-year-old man with an irreverent sense of humor and a steel trap mind. It’s not that he knew a little about a lot; he seemed to know a lot about virtually everything — World War II, American politics, antique car restoration. He graduated high school with honors and college cum laude. He swam, skied, and never missed the latest movie. “He might be the single funniest person I have ever met,’’ said Lisa Doucet-Albert, his boss in the Providence office of Regan Communications.

This past Sunday, Colin, his younger brother, Chris, and their mother, Maryann, hopped the ferry to Block Island to shop and spend time together. Colin’s father, Robin, was in Florida on business, and Maryann figured her boys could ride their old motorcycles around the uncluttered streets of the island.

They did that and more, and in the evening, after barely catching the last ferry back, they stopped for dinner not far from home. It was there that Maryann thought, “How lucky am I that I have a 23-year-old and 27-year-old son who enjoy spending a Sunday with their mother.’’

Leaving the restaurant, they headed home to Charlestown, R.I., to watch “Pacific’’ on HBO. Colin drove his bike. Chris, whose battery died at the ferry dock, drove his mother’s car. Maryann rode in the passenger seat.

They arrived at a red light a few minutes from home, Colin ahead, Chris and Maryann next in line. The light turned green, and Colin slowly accelerated. He was about halfway across when a car careened through the red light, into the intersection, and slammed into him. Chris and Maryann watched it all unfold.

“She didn’t even put the brakes on,’’ Maryann said yesterday as she stood in her house, dressed for her son’s wake. “It was the most unbelievably shocking thing any mother could ever witness.

“We ran over to him. He was on the cement on his stomach. He was moaning and his eyes were shut and his face was in perfect condition. His motorcycle was way down the road.’’

They wouldn’t let Maryann in the ambulance. When she got to the hospital, her son had already died.

Here’s where the incomprehensible becomes the inexcusable. The woman charged in the crash, 26-year-old Laura Reale, has received nine speeding tickets in the past eight years, and another four tickets for failing to stop for stop signs.

That her license hadn’t been permanently revoked is criminal. The Westerly paper reported that she’s the niece of a state senator, but it’s unclear whether that mattered. Her lawyer didn’t return a call. One state official told me the habitual offender laws are lenient and subjective.

They’re also deadly. This was a tragedy waiting to happen, and it did on Sunday night in the worst way.

Chris Foote followed his brother to Connecticut College and in a lot of other things. “He was always looking out for me, that’s for sure,’’ he said through tears yesterday. “I never would have admitted it to him, but I always looked up to him.’’

Colin’s longtime girlfriend, Mallory Kenyon, cried as she talked about how he made her laugh. “It was intoxicating being around him,’’ she said. “I’m trying to make sense of how someone else can be so reckless.’’

It was something Maryann Foote was grappling with when she awoke at 4 a.m. Tuesday with a revelation.

“I said, ‘How could I see my son die so violently?’ He was such a smart, cautious kid. But I had to be there for a reason: So there would be no coverup, no one could say he ran a red light. I was there, Chris was there, so we would know.’’

Such is a mother’s strength and a family’s bond.

Brian McGrory is a Globe columnist. He can be reached at mcgrory@globe.com.

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