Saturday, April 15, 2017

Last Mock Crash

Cars totaled in drunk-driving collisions are parked in front of the high school
as a reminder to make wise choices on Prom weekend.

The end of the school year is fast approaching. Seven weeks more and then summer will be here. Twenty-seven days of school remain, and then my teaching career will have reached its end. Knowing this, I find my perspective has shifted somewhat. I've been viewing so many things through the lens of "I may never experience this again."

One of those "lasts" will be tonight's Prom. I have chaperoned Prom for more than the past ten years. I love seeing the kids in their finery and the hard work that goes into decorating the venue to match the annual theme. I was there for Sarah's Prom during her senior year (2008) and for all three of Jacob's Proms (2008, 2009, 2010) and for Dylan's Prom (2015). You can bet I'll have my camera in hand for tonight's event, the last for me.

The whole student body fills three bleachers in the parking lot.
Thursday, April 13, 2017

Another major high school event, which happens in conjunction with Prom every three to four years, is the "Mock Crash." It's been about three years since the last Mock Crash was presented. The one before that was in 2010, when my older son Jacob was president of SADD Club (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and he put together the entire event almost single-handedly. Let me just say, he did an awesome job and it was very well-received by his fellow students. I was so proud.

So this year was a Mock Crash year again. What is a mock crash, you ask? A day or two before Prom, the first-responder heroes of our community work with SADD Club to plan and present a program that reminds our future Prom attendees and other youth of the very real consequences of choosing to drink and drive. It is a shockingly intense experience that makes a lasting point.

Firemen and paramedics race to free and then revive the "victims."

This year, the event began in the gym, where first-responders shared statistics and their own experiences with the injuries and loss of life that too often occur with driving under the influence. After a thirty-minute presentation, the student body of about 800 students was ushered to bleachers set up in one of the parking lots, overlooking a vehicle that had actually been wrecked in a drunk-driving incident. Inside are student volunteers posing as the victims of the crash.

A life-flight helicopter comes over the trees and lands nearby.

While students and staff look upon this gory tableau, the keening of emergency vehicles is heard in the distance, growing louder and louder as they draw nearer and then burst onto the scene. Police cruisers, firetrucks, and paramedics reach the scene and rush to the aid of the kids in the vehicle, working to free them from the wreck and treat or revive the injured. Police officers take statements from survivors and witnesses, who are visibly shaken.

The helicopter kicks up dust as it lands on campus.

One student is so badly "injured" that she must be airlifted to a hospital. Her parents arrive on scene just as she is being rushed on a gurney to a helicopter that has landed nearby. The mother sobs as they lean over her and give her a quick kiss before she's loaded into the helicopter and borne away.

The badly "injured student is loaded into the life-flight helicopter.

Another "victim" of the crash does not survive her injuries. Her mother arrives just as they've placed her on a gurney and covered her with a white sheet. (During Jacob's Mock Crash in 2010, the "deceased victim"--who was the daughter of one of our teachers--was actually zipped into a body bag. Now that was an intensely emotional moment...) The woman who portrayed the mother this year was the actual mother of the girl who played the deceased teen, and she was amazing. Her wracking sobs and hysterical pleading of "I want to see her" were so convincing that it really struck a chord, and there were few dry eyes in the place. I had to keep wiping away my own tears, sliding down the grit left on my face during the copter's landing. Meanwhile, an officer physically held up the distraught mother while her daughter was placed in the back of a hearse and driven away.

Yes, we all knew it wasn't real. These students will surely be back in school on Monday, sharing memories of the fun they had at Prom and happily anticipating the delivery of their Prom pictures. Still, the Mock Crash is a sobering reminder of what one bad decision can do, of the heart-wrenching pain it can bring to real families and real communities. Thanks to SADD Club and our first-responders for bringing Mock Crash to life.

A life-flight helicopter carries the badly "injured victim" away to the hospital while her parents watch.

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