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LOUISVILLE, KY (WDRB) -- Karolyn Nunnallee wore out shoes lobbying Congress. She's been in the oval office four times. As the past national president of Mother's Against Drunk Driving (MADD), she pushed to lower the legal blood alcohol level to .08.
They're all endeavors that she admits likely never would've happened had she not lost her daughter, Patricia, to the worst drunken driving crash in U.S. history.
"Anytime you lose a loved one it creates a chasm in your heart. You can choose to be bitter or you can choose to be better and I chose to be better," Nunnallee said during an interview with WDRB News Sunday night.
Patty was 10 years old - the youngest victim to die in the Carroll County bus crash. The bus was on its way back to Radcliff after a day trip to King's Island in Cincinnati. A drunken Larry Mahoney was driving the wrong way on Interstate 71 when he collided with the bus and it burst into flames.
He lived. 27 others - many of them children - did not.
"When you lose a child I wonder what would she be doing? To see these young people who have made really incredible successes of their lives. I wonder would Patty be doing this, or this," Nunnallee said.
"It's really hard to believe it's been 25 years. But it's time for the survivors and those of us who lost loved ones to come together and celebrate the loved ones we have."
Karolyn has reinvented her life to help families heal. On Monday, she'll speak at a homicide victims memorial before attending events later this week commemorating the 25th anniversary fatal Carroll County bus crash.
"Every time I tell my story it's healing. Yes, it brings it all up, but you have to bring it up. You can't go under it, you can't go around it. You have to go through it," she said. "I tell victims that life as you knew it before your loved one died will never be the same. You can have a wonderful life it you choose and I have had a wonderful life."
MADD Kentucky says the anniversary is a strong reminder of the dangers associated with drinking and driving.
"When it comes to drunk driving it's usually that poor decision that leads to someone's loss of life," said Rosalind Donald, with MADD Kentucky.
Losing someone, Nunnallee says, feels like the scab that won't heal. How quickly it heals - she says -is up to you.
"But the scar is always there. The scar of patty's death will always be there. But my life will be better because I've chosen for it to be better," Nunnallee said.