About a thousand excited and chatty juniors and seniors filled the bleachers at the Wolverines Football Stadium. But the chatter became a thick hush when the crash scene was unveiled in the middle of the track oval.
Two crumpled cars had collided, teen passengers in both, beer cans strewn around, a boy's arm severed, bloodied bodies, an unconscious girl draped half out the windshield, and another girl, in the driver's seat, paralyzed from the neck down.
The DVHS student actors' amplified dialogue of shock, then panic, pierced the stadium. "Are you OK?" asked Shauna White.
Photos by Minotte R. Cuenca
A helicopter lands on the staged accident scene to take Michael Paez to John Muir hospital. Officials hope the dramatization will save young lives.
Sirens blared, announcing the arrival of police cars, fire trucks and ambulances. Rescue workers pried out the pinned passengers with electric saws. The injured and bloodied passengers were then put on stretchers. Paez was placed in a helicopter to be transported to a hospital. Mosley was rushed to Sutter Delta.
Kendra Rawland, pulled out from the hood of the car, did not make it. The drama ended with the heartbreak of Kendra's family grieving as they saw her sprawled, covered body on the ground.
It was hard to remember that this was a re-enactment, especially when the helicopter landed in the middle of the field. The mood was somber, heavy, serious as the teens watched intensely, with nary a smile on their faces. Riveted by the tragic scene, they too might have forgotten that this was only a re-enactment.
"Every 15 minutes, someone dies or is injured from a drunk-driving accident," said Sherry Walkins, a John Muir Hospital nurse. "Every 15 Minutes is an injury-prevention program to impact parents and the whole community about drunk driving. It's really the parents we're trying to impact. For every parent, may this serve as a reminder to become role models to their kids. Kids may seem not to listen, but they sure are watching."
"This is very dramatic, very realistic. I hope it impresses on everyone here," said parent-volunteer Sam Blittman, who was attending his third Every 15 Minutes program this year.
A mock funeral service was held at the high school the following day. Students read letters to their parents, and police officers and hospital personnel shared the emotional trauma of dealing with kids killed in accidents. A teen survivor from a car crash spoke about his experience, and made it very real to the students.
"There has been very good feedback," said coordinator Wanda Hom. "The students are still talking about it. The program definitely made a huge impact. The kids realize the consequences of drunk driving and the responsibility of driving."
"It was an awesome program that inspired people not to drink and drive," said Daniel Morton, 17. "It helped people who drank, think again. The whole role-play got people emotional. I carried the casket with my buddies the next day, and when we entered I could feel everyone was emotional and in shock. It was very realistic."
"There was no better way to display how real it can be," said Kevin Hom, a Deer Valley junior. "I even went with Monica in the ambulance. I couldn't really imagine it until I saw what could happen. I got the real feeling, and I will definitely keep this experience behind the back of my mind at all times."