When I think of my favorite movie of the summer, I think of three things: extravagant parties, yellow cars and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Together, all three elements create one of America's most intriguing stories ever told — The Great Gatsby. I've read the book, seen the movie and listened to the soundtrack. One of the most mesmerizing aspects of the movie was something familiar to many college students — the parties.

College, for many students, can be a place of many different things: a place for learning, a place for growth, a place to get a degree.

Oh, and a place with some seriously good parties.

Drive down the street any weekend night and you'll see it. Flowing beer, loud music, flashing lights. College and nightlife seem to go hand-in-hand; besides, being young, wild and free does call for some celebration.

Gatsby's parties might be a far cry from Rumorz, but a college student's budget can only go so far.

While socializing and enjoying oneself with friends can only be expected, there are definitely moments when too much fun can change someone's life in an instant.

Mary Shelley Goldsmith, 19, seemed to have it all together. She had been awarded one of the nation's most prestigious academic honors, the Jefferson Scholarship, at the University of Virginia. She had a large group of friends in her sorority, and far-reaching dreams for the future.

The sophomore was out at a nightclub near D.C. on Aug. 31 and took some impure molly — a derivative of ecstasy — at a rave with friends. Within the hour, the young woman was dead. For one father — indeed, for many families across the nation — the very thing that creates so much excitement can also destroy those who matter most.

In her father's words, "She was a dream child ... an exceptional woman who made one mistake." Though college allows for incredible independence for having fun — including no curfew, and potentially limitless revelry — only the partiers seem to live with the consequences.

But the results of tragedies, like the one involving Goldsmith, seem to disagree.

In heartbreaking occurrences of overdoses and accidents, people are left with unspeakable heartbreak. In one night, in one mistake, everything can change – something that the upbeat music and shiny bottles won't tell you.

For my own family, it nearly did.

Our brood of five was piled in our large SUV, driving to the beach for a nice family vacation one summer many years ago. It was late, and my brothers and I had fallen asleep as the night deepened.

I woke up sharply to the sound of my mother's terrified scream and the sickening squeal of colliding metal. Our car swerved sharply into the oncoming highway lane, the airbags exploded and the smell of gunpowder thickened the air.

Amidst the shouts and confusion, our wildly careening car finally came to a stop, and I scrambled out of my seat into the darkness, afraid that the engine would catch on fire. I'll never forget the look on my mother's face, her shaking hands, as she pulled me quickly into her arms, and frantically checked my brothers' bruised faces.

An incapacitated, exceptionally drunk man hit my family that night, and left pieces of our car shattered across the highway. Had another vehicle been driving in oncoming traffic, one or more of us could've easily been killed.

To think that my life could've changed in that instant, because of another man's decision to have too many rounds, makes me absolutely sick.

Having fun is good, and parties are great to relax and enjoy friends. But all that glitters isn't gold, and sometimes fun can hurt the people you least expect.

If you don't believe me, just ask a father — like Mary Goldstein's — who has lost a daughter.Listen to silence where words will not suffice, and think of the empty bedroom upstairs, reminding him of the child who will not be coming home.

Sarah Hagaman is a sophomore in English. She can be reached at shagama1@utk.edu.