LATHAM Bailey Wind finished writing a book about her boyfriend this summer, but decided she would wait to have it published until after the trial of the man who killed him in a car accident.
Dennis Drue, 23, of Halfmoon, never went to trial, but instead pleaded guilty Sept. 27 to all 58 counts against him. He is set to face five to 15 years in prison as punishment for driving his SUV too fast, recklessly and high on marijuana, knocking a car full of high school seniors off the road, killing two of them and injuring two others.
Wind was in that car full of teenagers the night her boyfriend, Christopher Stewart, and best friend, Deanna Rivers, were killed on the Northway on Dec. 1, 2012.
Her book, “Save Me a Spot In Heaven,” is a loving tribute to Stewart, written by Wind with the help of Chris Graf, a local freelance writer she met by chance on Christmas Eve 2012. It’s about the boy who stole Wind’s heart when she was 17 and the relationship they shared until his dying day and beyond.
“In addition to sharing their love story, Bailey writes about her life after the accident,” according to information on the book’s website. “During this journey, she has learned valuable lessons about loss, grief, forgiveness, bullying, unity, kindness and the power of love. It is the power of love that has carried her through her darkest moments, and it is the power of love that continues to sustain her. She will forever carry Chris and Deanna close to her heart, and the lessons she learned from them will guide her throughout her life.”
The book goes on sale Nov. 1 but is available for pre-order now at www.spotinheaven.com. Wind’s family financed printing of the book.
Her mother, Dawn, said writing the book helped Bailey with her grief. Bailey, who is in her freshman year at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, could not be reached Tuesday.
Based purely on social media reaction to the book, the family will be printing many copies of “Save Me a Spot In Heaven.” A Facebook page created Sunday to get the word out about the book received nearly 800 “likes” as of Tuesday afternoon. Many people, mostly from the Capital Region, commented on Facebook and Twitter that they couldn’t wait to read the book and had already ordered several copies.
Graf, the local writer who helped Wind write the book, was initially shocked to learn a 17-year-old girl from Latham wanted to write an entire book about her teenage romance. Although Graf could not be reached Tuesday, she detailed at length how she became involved with Wind’s book on her personal Facebook page, which was confirmed by Wind’s mom.
Graf met the Winds by chance at a local restaurant on Christmas Eve, just a few weeks after the crash. Bailey was still in a neck brace and missing an entire row of teeth. Graf, a Shen mom who had followed the tragedy with the rest of the community, recognized her from TV. Seeing her out in public that night, Graf admired her courage for showing the most vulnerable side of herself to the world and felt compelled to do something kind for the family. She bought a gift card to cover their dinner, shared hugs with the family and chatted for a bit before leaving the restaurant.
“I continued to think about Bailey and felt compelled to reach out to her,” wrote Graf on her Facebook page. “I sent her a Facebook message and told her that I was a writer. I told her how therapeutic writing can be. I also told her that I would help her if she ever wanted to write something. She messaged me back immediately and said, ‘I want to write a book.’ I will be honest. I read that and said to myself, ‘A book? How could she possibly write a book about a teenage romance?’ I was thinking more along the lines of an article and didn’t think that she could have the content necessary for a book.”
She helped her write the book anyway and soon realized just how many life lessons Wind had to impart.
“It is first and foremost a love story,” wrote Graf. “But it is so much more. It addresses the very important issue of bullying. I don’t want to go into any more detail than that. It’s Bailey’s story to tell, and I want you to hear it from her.”