Changing Hawaii

By Diane Yukihiro Chang

Monday, March 29, 1999

On learning
life’s lessons
the hard way

YESTERDAY, while browsing the shelf of New York Times best sellers at a bookstore, a woman ducked in front me, picked up a copy of Lawrence Schiller's "Perfect Murder, Perfect Town: JonBenet and the City of Boulder," and hurried toward the cashier.

If she had turned back to glance at me, she would have seen a pained expression. Plus I was biting my lip.

It took great self-control not to shout after her, "Lady, don't buy that! It's boring. It's hard to follow. And it will only get you frustrated, 'cause by the end of the book, you'll be more confused than ever!"

Yet I didn't say a word, although I would have if she had solicited my opinion. Because when Schiller's tell-all on the JonBenet Ramsey murder case first hit the stores last month, I couldn't wait to buy it.

Like the nation, I am appalled by the mysterious 1996 murder of the 6-year-old girl who entered child beauty contests and whose killer has yet to be found.

Were her parents, considered prime suspects and pillars of the Colorado community, being protected by the powers-that-be? Were there any similarities in that case to local unsolved mysteries like the 1991 Big Island murder of Dana Ireland?

I had been just as excited about purchasing "Perfect Murder, Perfect Town" as that lady yesterday. So what might my reaction had been if a stranger had told me, as I reached for it on the shelf, that it wasn't so hot?

Undoubtedly something like, "Well, thanks for sharing. But let me judge for myself."

That's when I realized the real tragedy of last Thursday night's two-car crash on Moanalua Freeway near Aloha Stadium, which killed Farrington junior Allan Magnaye and injured eight other teens, three critically.

A lot of us learned about it the same way: by watching the 10 o'clock news and seeing the mangled wreckage of two Acura Integras, which were reportedly racing Ewa-bound at an estimated 80-90 mph.

Oh no. Not again. How tragic.

Racing isn't a "new" trend in catching cheap thrills. Teens and childish adults have always zoomed along Hawaii's streets and highways for the adrenaline rush and as an exercise in machismo.

They all know it's dangerous. They know it's against the law. But they do it anyway because -- and it hurts to vocalize this reality -- they have to learn the hard way.

Throughout our lives, we often suffer delusions of immortality. It's the young and young-at-brain, however, who especially think they are invulnerable when it comes to defying the odds of premature and violent death. That is one of the most infuriating aspects of our short time on Earth -- that life's lessons can be taught but are not necessarily taken to heart by those who need the education the most.

SO when the weeping mother of Allan Magnaye bravely went on one of the TV stations and begged teens not to do what her son had done, because racing is stupid and can result in such finality, I had to hold back the tears myself.

For a dead 17-year-old boy. For the others involved in the accident. For their traumatized parents, families and friends. And especially for the future victims of high-speed crashes, who can hear all the lectures in the world and who know that highway racing is wrong, but who somehow believe tragedies only happen to other unfortunates.

Meanwhile, those of us who painfully know otherwise must merely stand back and grimace. While biting our lips.

Diane Yukihiro Chang's column runs Monday and Friday.
She can be reached by phone at 525-8607, via e-mail at, or by fax at 523-7863.

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