DELANO, Minn — The roads we travel are not just our own. Take it from a Minnesota state trooper whose road intersected with a mom in trouble.
“It changed my life, for sure,” Trooper Kristie Sue Hathaway says as she drives west from the Twin Cities on Highway 12.
Hathaway pulls her squad car into a driveway in Delano, rings the doorbell and is greeted by Amy Martin.
“Come on in,” Martin says, smiling warmly.
Martin and Hathaway embrace.
Much has changed since the afternoon 10 years ago when the pair first met.
Then, it was Hathaway the arresting officer, and Martin the drunk driver.
“If this wouldn’t have happened, there is no question in my mind, I would not be here today,” Martin says. “She saved my life.”
The arrest started routinely enough. Hathaway spotted a weaving car, speeding up and slowing down, mid-afternoon on a Monday on a stretch of Highway 77 in Bloomington.
Hathaway was still new to the force, with just five previous DWI arrests under her belt, but there was little doubt what she had encountered.
“I went up and could see that she had watery, glassy eyes,” the trooper says.
An open bottle of vodka sat in the center console of Martin’s Infiniti SUV.
Martin’s daughter Madeline, not quite 2 years old, sat in the backseat.
“This is probably the most difficult thing for me to talk about,” Martin says, wiping away tears as she and Hathaway recall the events of the day.
Martin’s parents were summoned to pick up her daughter, while Martin rode with trooper Hathaway to the Hennepin County Jail.
Ten years later, Hathaway and Martin recall the conversation they shared at the jail.
“I remember saying right before you got booked in,” Hathaway tells Martin, “'Please don't do this to your daughter. She needs a mom. I know because my mom left when I was 10.'”
Hathaway went on to share with Martin that both her parents had struggled with alcohol, which led to her being raised by her aunt and uncle.
As Martin was booked and photographed — her blood alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit — she promised trooper Hathaway she would make things right.
Martin vowed to visit the trooper in a year, sober.
“Quite frankly, she had said it and I was like, ‘Okay, well…'” trooper Hathaway said. “I didn't think that I'd hear from her.”
This was, after all, Martin’s second DWI arrest. Why would this time be different?
But one year to the day later, Martin kept her promise. She surprised Hathaway at work, presenting the trooper with the one-year sobriety medallion Martin had earned from her 12-step program.
“While I'd been trying to get sober for quite a long time and struggling with that, I wanted her to be able to see that and kind of give that to her,” Martin said.
Then, the giving continued.
Every year since her arrest, Martin has delivered her new sobriety medallion to Hathaway, who then returns the medallion from the previous year.
In between, Hathaway carries Martin’s medallion each day at work, under her badge, in the pocket of her uniform.
“It's been a really tough couple years in our field. There have been times when you kind of wonder like, 'Why am I in this job?'” Hathaway says. “It reminds me of why. It gives me hope.”
Over the years, that hope has evolved into a friendship.
Martin cheered for Hathaway at the Twin Cities Marathon, the pair attended each other’s weddings and Hathaway came to Madeline’s school to talk about her career.
The one-time toddler in the backseat of her mother’s SUV, is 12 now and couldn’t be prouder of her mom.
“I'm glad she made the choice to do what she did and make a promise that she would do it and actually accomplish it,” Madeline says.
Then, for a 10th year, Hathaway reaches into her pocket and hands the previous year’s medallion to Martin.
“This would be your number nine,” the trooper says.
“I will trade you for 10,” Martin says in reply, handing Hathaway her latest sobriety medallion.
Again, the friends embrace.
They have a decade of sobriety to celebrate on a road they have traveled together.
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