Luke Maxwell wants to use his story as both an inspiration and a cautionary tale.
While driving on Rancho California Road in Temecula, Maxwell swerved into oncoming traffic and collided with another driver. Maxwell walked away from the crash with only a scratch.
Lenny Ross, a husband and father, was the other driver. He saw the van race around the corner.
“I think I was going about 40 mph and [the van on the other side of the road] was accelerating. At that moment, he swerved into me – trying to hit me,” Ross said. “It literally felt like an attack.”
Ross sustained major injuries, including a broken sternum.
Ross was hardly the only one blindsided by the accident. After discovering her van had disappeared from her driveway, Carol Maxwell found her son’s suicide note and soon got the call.
“I was in the eye of a tornado. It was devastating. I thought my son was dead,” Carol Maxwell said.
It wasn’t until she and her husband Scott Maxwell were in the emergency room when they found out their son suffered from major depression and felt terrible. He had gone untreated for a long time.
Six months after the crash, Maxwell and Ross met. They became friends and formed a support group together.
“I came up to him and he gave me a hug and said, ‘I’m sorry.’ He said ‘you know, that’s what I want to hear,” Maxwell said.
“A lot of people ask how you can forgive someone who tried to kill you? When you [forgive] there are blessings that come from that kind of compassion,” Ross said.
Maxwell received unexpected compassion in the courts as well, where he faced assault with a deadly weapon for driving into Ross.
Prosecutor Jeanne Roy was assigned to the case and said in her 25 years of practicing law, she has never seen a victim and perpetrator become friends. She knew this case was special.
To the surprise of everyone in the courtroom, Roy stood up to the judge and argued on behalf of Maxwell instead of against him.
“I was willing to put my creditability and reputation on the line,” Roy said.
Maxwell is literally living proof that things can get better – something he wants every teen to know.
For troubled teens who can’t find their own words, Maxwell has an open letter to parents – not a suicide note – ready to print out on his website.