Taylor Webster was ten days shy of boot camp to become a U.S. Marine and jokes circulated among his friends that his constant smiling wouldn’t be tolerated in the military.
The Webster family home backs up to Fort Collins High School, in a manicured neighborhood filled with the sounds of kids playing and dogs barking, but the people there have missed a good friend, brother and son for almost a year.
Taylor died of alcohol poisoning on April 10, 2002, at the age of 19. He had moved out of his family home and was attending the Fire Science Program at Aims Community College. He dreamed of becoming a firefighter and a Marine.
“Taylor always wanted to do everything for himself,” said Sally Webster, Taylor’s mother, as she glanced at one of the many pictures of him displayed throughout her home. “We told him we’d pay for his college education, but he wanted to be able to do it himself by joining the Marines.”
The night of his death, Taylor and his mother discussed that dream of becoming a Marine, which upset her at the time. After talking to his mom he went to work at the Outback Steakhouse. When he got home a friend had purchased a bottle of vodka and Taylor and his friends began to take shots. Taylor passed out and was left to sleep it off. His friends went upstairs to watch a movie.
Alcohol myths, like the belief that a person who consumes too many alcoholic drinks can become sobered up with coffee, food or a trip to the toilet, can be dangerous and are not true, said Jessica Webster, Taylor’s sister.
Her advice: Never leave an intoxicated person alone.
After Taylor’s death, his sister Jessica created T-DUB, an alcohol awareness organization and Web site, www.t-dub.org, and has kept busy combating alcohol myths in Fort Collins.
The police report stated that Taylor consumed six to ten shots, but everyone who was with Taylor that night seemed to have a different idea of how much he drank. He was found in the morning by his best friend, who called 911 and performed CPR in an attempt to revive him.
Alcohol is a depressant, and the body’s organs are slowed down and can eventually stop working if a person has had too much to drink, Sally said.
CSU has between 80 and 90 liquor outlets within a one-mile radius of campus, alcohol sponsorship of sports and a campus pub.
“Alcohol is part of our culture and it gets emphasized to us over and over,” said Pam McCracken, director of University Health Services.
Most students are moderate, responsible drinkers, McCracken said. Moderate is defined as consuming 0-4 drinks a week.
“CSU offers really good resources for students who need some support. When you’re in the real world someone like your boss may not be so supportive and treatment will be more expensive and may not be as confidential,” McCracken said.
CSU residence hall front desks are now staffed 24 hours a day. Those persons working the desk are instructed to leave an intoxicated student with a friend or a resident assistant, rather than leaving him or her alone. The policy has caused an increase in the number of students going to detox or Poudre Valley Hospital.
The front-desk staff contacts students’ parents at the moment the student is taken to detox or the hospital, no matter what time it is. A new university policy will mandate a $175 clean-up fee for student vomit.
“Usually when someone goes to detox, we have very few repetitive offenses,” McCracken said. “Most students I’ve talked to who’ve gone through that experience have either stopped drinking all together or cut down dramatically.”
The ‘it’s not going to happen to me attitude’ is extremely prevalent among students, McCracken said. Experience and maturation tends to make students more aware of what can really happen, she said.
Talking about Taylor and the dangers of alcohol poisoning has been a successful healing method for his family.
A long time ago a person grieving the death of a loved one would wear black and people from the community would approach them to talk about it, Sally said. It is difficult to grieve in today’s fast-paced regular routine society where nobody wants to discuss death, she said.
April is National Alcohol Awareness month. Sally and Jessica Webster will be at the CSU Student Center Plaza on April 10 for Turnout For Taylor and the National Alcohol Screening Day.