On the night of Feb. 2, according to police records, a young woman law student "had some seizures" in her Washington apartment and a friend who was with her called an ambulance, which carried her to George Washington University Hospital. She was about to become an example of a wasted life.
At 23, she was one of those privileged young women who seemed destined to be one of the best and brightest.
A magna cum laude graduate of a well-known university, she later studied in France and was a student at a California law school. She was on the school's law review and worked with a black law student group.
"She was a good student," said a California school official, "a real vivacious type of person."
She came to Washington in January to work as a law intern.
"We were very impressed with her background and dedication to communication law," said a senior vice president and general counsel at the firm where she worked. "She was here only a short time, but she was a woman with . . . contagious enthusiasm. There was a zest about her."
The organization's vice president for minority affairs recalls her as "one of the few interns who expressed interest in what minorities were doing in the business. She'd come up and we'd talk. She showed a lot of promise."
But on this night in February, her promise was only a dream as an ambulance sped her to the hospital. There, doctors kept her alive for a day or so.
The medical examiner's report listed the cause of death as a seizure after use of cocaine. Lightning had struck.
It is no secret that cocaine has gone middle class, and drug overdoses are common in this and most other large cities. But this case even saddened the usually taciturn doctors who performed the autopsy. Dr. James L. Luke, the city's chief medical examiner, said, "I was personally very moved by this. The case really bothered me a lot . . . . It seemed such a waste."
The drug revolution unfortunately has made drugs almost a part of the culture since doing "what feels good now" became a dominant value of modern-day America.
But those who don't look on cocaine or PCP or any number of other recreational drugs as dangerous should think twice. The perception that they are not serious drugs is partly responsible for their wide use and abuse. A decade ago, one had to scout around a bit to find marijuana. But now cocaine, PCP and the stimulant known as 'Bam' are as convenient as your curbside dealer. Corner stores in some parts of Washington sell cigarette paper and small brown envelopes for dime bags of marijuana.
It is tragic for a budding young professional, who everyone agreed was outstanding, to toot her life away.
But of course this young woman didn't mean to die. In the 1960s, drugs carried the aura of rebellion against authority. In the 1980s, people do drugs because they are something to do, because they're "fun." And thus today's drug epidemic.
In launching the 1983 alcohol and drug abuse campaign last month, D.C. Mayor Marion Barry noted that the number of drug addicts in the city was about 15,000, an all-time high, and that the city had the second highest rate of alcohol addiction in the nation.
The ridiculous cycle that snuffed out this young woman's life must be turned around. Her life was filled with hope and potential for good.
She lost her chance on a winter night in Washington, and in a sense, all of us must share the blame.
For at the point when taking drugs became socially respectable, it became everyone's responsibility.
"In coping with both the sexual and the drug revolutions," says Dr. Robert I. DuPont, president of the American Council on Marijuana Inc., " we should recognize that there are many pressures on you to 'go with the flow.' Advertising, the media, music and many adult role models all tend to encourage the do-it-now attitude."
But the woman also has to share the responsibility. She took the risk, doubtless feeling infallible, as do many people who regularly use recreational drugs, thinking, "It's not going to happen to me." For this young woman, it was a fatal miscalculation.