After Mohamed Hariri lost his 19-year-old sister to a fiery, alcohol-related car crash in Burbank last year, he decided to join the campaign against drunk driving, something he feels is entirely preventable.
In May, the 23-year-old secured an internship with the nonprofit Mothers Against Drunk Driving, through which he now shares his story with dozens of people who’ve been convicted of driving under the influence, he said.
“I don’t want anyone else to get hurt by a drunk driver,” he said, sitting outside his home Monday. “I care about other people. I want everyone to drive home safe, I want everyone to make it home safe.”
He was wearing an Angels cap he found at the crash site about a month after it happened, on which someone had written “R.I.P Malak, always in our hearts.”
In Burbank in 2013, there were 557 drunk- or drugged-driving arrests and 86 impaired-driving collisions, 26 of which resulted in injuries. And two fatal car wrecks together claimed the lives of six people.
The last time Hariri saw his sister was exactly a year ago on Wednesday, just before he returned to college at Arizona State University.
A few weeks later, at 9 a.m. on Sept. 28, he was putting on his gym shoes when he got a call from his other sister. The phone call surprised him because they usually communicate via text messages.
Hariri fell to the floor when he heard the tragic news. He took the first flight to California, arrived at 3 p.m. and headed straight to the crash site.
“I was just in shock, as anyone would be,” he said. “It’s still a shock — five minutes from my parents’ house.”
After 10 months, he said, he still can’t comprehend the loss.
“I do tell myself my sister’s coming home, I have this anticipation that she’s coming home,” he said.
Malak Hariri maintains a strong presence in her family’s Burbank home, where framed photos of her crowd the living room, next to a large bag of Limon-flavored Lay’s. She had asked her friend to pick up the chips on a run to 7-Eleven the night of the crash, but she had already left by the time he returned with the snack.
After starting his internship this summer, Mohamed Hariri said he emailed local high schools and colleges offering to tell students his story, something he can’t wait to do when school goes back into session.
“Just to keep my sister’s memory alive is pretty special,” he said.