All we know for certain is that five families have received the news that so many Long Island parents count as their greatest fear. That late-night call. That knock on the door.
Their children are dead, killed in a car wreck that has shattered homes and hearts, Mother's Day celebrations, and the emotions of a high school and a community.
Cody Talanian, 17. Jesse Romero, 18. Tristan Reichle, 17. Carly Marie Lonnborg, 14. Noah Francis, 15.
Since the head-on collision of a Nissan sedan carrying the five teens and a GMC sport utility vehicle at 12:04 a.m. Saturday, social media and news outlets have been abuzz with rumors about possible causes.
The investigation must look at possible mechanical failures, driver and passenger behavior, and complaints about the condition of Conklin Street in Farmingdale. Hopefully, the questions we are all asking will be answered. Where were these kids coming from, and what were they doing? Were seat belts worn? Did they work? Were traffic laws obeyed? We need to know what happened and why, so such accidents, somehow, mercifully, will become less frequent. But we also, sometimes, look for details as talismans: What can we do differently tomorrow that will reassure us the same knock won't come to our door?
Such accidents, particularly when they involve young people, are the scourge of the region. Four young men killed on the Southern State Parkway in 2012. Three high schoolers killed going off-campus to grab lunch in Smithtown in 2007, and four students killed in Herricks in 2001, also leaving campus for lunch. And who can forget the LIRR train that hit a van in Mineola in 1982, killing nine teenagers.
These are indelible. More likely to fade from our memories is the seemingly constant stream of accidents in which one or two kids are killed or injured.
If a loved one, particularly a young person, drives or rides on Long Island, you fear the road will take them. Now is the time to grieve. When the facts are in, it will be time to act, as best we can, to try to stop the killing of our kids in cars.