As president of SADD Club (Students Against Destructive Decisions), Jacob spent much of his senior year planning and preparing for one huge event that he wanted to be his gift to Blue Ridge High School before he graduated. On May 13th, exactly one week before graduation, he saw his dream come to fruition.
Bryce, portraying a bystander at the scene, reacts to finding a mortally injured friend in the "crash."
Knowing the dismal statistics on graduation night injuries and deaths resulting from driving under the influence, Jacob spearheaded the effort to present a DUI crash simulation to the entire high school student body prior to graduation night.
The drunk driver (black shirt, portrayed by Tyrell) appears dazed with a head injury.
To accomplish this event required obtaining the cooperation and coordinating the efforts of many agencies, including the school district, the police department, the fire department, a helicopter air evacuation company, an ambulance service, emergency medical technicians, the medical examiner, and even a mortuary and hearse. Jacob also had to enlist several youth to portray the students involved in the mock "crash."
Emergency responders begin to arrive on the scene.
The students were incredibly believable as the victims and their traumatized friends. It was a touching and realistic taste of how such a situation would affect all of us deeply.
Sergeant Sargent (yes, that's his real name) begins investigating the accident as the firemen do their job.
The simulation began with the police department bringing two cars on campus which had been involved in an actual DUI crash. The students who were playing the parts of the victims were settled into their places inside the cars and a tarp was placed over it all just before the student body began to arrive and fill up the bleachers Jacob had arranged to have delivered to the school specifically for this event.
Once everyone was seated, a fire department spokesperson set the scene for the crowd, the tarp was removed, and the simulation began in earnest.
An air-evac helicopter lands in the parking lot near the "crash." The wind from the blades nearly knocked us over!
The main players were:
Tyrell, who portrayed the drunk driver. His injuries weren't life threatening, so he was arrested, handcuffed, and taken away in a police car.
Cami, who portrayed Tyrell's passenger. She was "killed" instantly and spent almost the entire simulation (which lasted over an hour) hanging lifeless over the door. She was amazing. For days everyone marveled over how she was able to be still for so long!
Nick, who played the sober driver of the other car. He was also injured and after a check-up by the EMTs he was taken to the hospital by ambulance.
Chanda, who portrayed Nick's passenger. She was badly injured, but because she was trapped inside the car she was unable to receive medical attention until the firemen cut the roof off the car to get her out. She was air-evaced by helicopter to a trauma center in Phoenix (not really, but she did get to fly away in the helicopter, lucky girl!).
The fire crew brings in equipment to cut Chanda out of the car while Sergeant Sargent covers Cami's body with a tarp.
The event began attracting people from all over. All the employees in the district office came out to see it. News media groups came to film it and report on it. A big newspaper article described the simulation; yet, oddly, it never even mentioned Jacob as the one who pulled it all together. I'm pleased to say he didn't seem to mind not getting credit. He was just happy that it went off so well and that he overheard so many students commenting on their reactions to the presentation.
Proof that I was there: Wyndie and I are just barely visible in the crowd behind the firefighter on the left!
(This shot was taken by one of the reporters there. I took the rest of the photos.)
After the roof is removed, Chanda is freed and put on the backboard.
Jacob is visible at the far left in the gray and white jacket, watching his handiwork unfold.
Chanda is rushed to the helicopter.
Dylan wished he could have been there to see his good friend and Big Sister Chanda (from Big Brothers/Big Sisters) play her part in this drama. He also wished he could have flown in the helicopter with her!
A look at some of the crowd as Chanda was wheeled by.
The simulation served two purposes. First, it was a reminder to the students of the consequences of drinking and driving. Second, it was a good practice run for all the emergency personnel involved. They carried out their duties as if it were the real thing. I must say, they were impressive!
Only after all the living victims were cared for was Cami removed from the car by the medical examiner.
Her deadly injuries were frighteningly realistic.
One of the greatest impacts of the presentation came ofter the simulation ended. The four students who portrayed the victims returned to school, but for 2 days they were not allowed to speak to their classmates. It was a constant reminder of the lasting consequences of driving under the influence, whether your friend is gone because he or she is dead, injured, or in jail.
Cami was zipped into a body bag, placed inside the hearse, and driven away. (That's Cami's dad--one of my fellow high school teachers--in the dark blue shirt on the right, filming his daughter as a "corpse."
I'd never imagined the work that went into bringing about a huge operation like this until I saw it firsthand in my own home. Countless hours of gathering resources, making phone calls, writing letters, making personal visits, and holding planning meetings (with refreshments, of course) went into making this happen, along with many disappointments and false starts along the way. But Jacob never wavered in his resolve. He forged ahead until everything fell into place and he had a presentation he felt could change lives.
We've never had a graduation night fatality in our small town, and this year was no exception. I hope that's one "zero" statistic that never changes! I'm so proud of Jacob and his desire to make a difference for his friends and fellow students. I know this was one school lesson they'll remember for a very long time!