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The Gift Of Forgiveness

Bruce Murakami is a man with a mission that begins with a long and difficult journey. His drive is now routine, the destination, familiar, but the road that brought him here is still painful and his story still hard to tell.

As he stands behind a podium with a family portrait by his side he starts his speech before a young audience. "My name is Bruce Murakami. What I'd like to share with you today will hopefully make an impact on your life. On Nov.16, 1998, this family portrait changed forever. Cindy and Chelsea were killed in a car crash."

They are powerful words for the young people who need to hear them most — teenagers who are about to get behind the wheel of a car for the first time.

"As I pulled my truck near the crash scene, I could hear myself saying in my mind, 'there's no way, this could not be,'" Murakami continues. "All I knew was that I didn't believe what I was seeing, that my wife and daughter were dying in such a horrific way."

Murakami's wife Cindy and his 11-year-old daughter Chelsea were hit by a car traveling at more than 90 miles an hour. Their mini-van exploded on impact. And in an instant, Murakami's world changed.

"It was a good life, lots of love, lots of family," recalls Murakami. "We were talking about when Chelsea would go to college. We thought we'd go back to Hawaii. Just get a little place on the beach and relax. That was our dream."

And in an instant, it all changed. But Murakami was determined to get to the bottom of what happened. When he found out speed racing was to blame for the deaths of his wife and his daughter, he wanted to make sure somebody paid for the crime.

The driver that day could have been any of the teenagers in the room where Murakami made his speech. In fact, the driver was there to tell the students that it could happen to them, just as easily as it happened to him.

Justin Caberzas, 19, was facing a stiff sentence, possibly the next 30 years in prison. But Murakami had a different punishment in mind.

Instead of time behind bars, Caberzas spends time under house arrest and in front of a podium with Murakami, talking about the dangers of speed racing.

"I know he's been through a hell of a lot just because of a decision I made," says Caberzas. "Not a lot of people can do what he did. There's a big issue of forgiveness there. I think it's a tremendous thing."

"One of the things I told him, I said, 'You know, you're a young man. I believe you have a lot of good in you. I believe you have a future and your future is not sitting in prison. I believe that - you know - you need to give back,'" says Murakami.

So twice a month, Murakami and Caberzas are doing just that. And their message is making a difference.

One student wrote:

"Dear Mr. Murakami, thank you very much. I really did put that to use. My boyfriend really likes to drive fast a lot of the time. I went home and I told him and I actually think that it affected him."

After the death of his wife and daughter, Murakami moved away from the crash site. He says being closer to the water brings him comfort and somehow, makes it easier to move on.

Caberzas is now a 23-year-old man. He had time to think about that fateful day and about the man who gave him a second chance.

"I've said 'thank you' many a time to Bruce," says Caberzas. "You can't thank him enough. Every time we see a letter from a kid that's positive or see the tears well up in their eyes. It's sort of powerful and that just reminds us that we're doing the right thing."

Two men, who through tragedy have found one mission — telling their stories together as they change lives.

"This is part of my healing," says Murakami. "Being able to talk about it. It's something my wife would have wanted. If I can save one life in that classroom it's worth it."

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