It never fails.
Something you know is staged; not real, actors playing out a scene and yet, it is so well done that it gets me every time.
Escalon High School was the setting for the Every 15 Minutes program over the course of two days last week, March 27 and 28, and once again, the realistic DUI drama carried a sobering message. When you drink and drive, people can die.
This wasn’t the first time the program has been done in Escalon, in fact, 2014 was the sixth time; it is done every two years, put on for juniors and seniors and this year, both Escalon and Vista students took part.
Oakdale hosted their program last school year and Riverbank has also done the program in the past.
The goal is to give students reason to stop and think, especially as we hit the prom and graduation season. Making a split second decision can change the course of your life, and that’s something that organizers of the event want students to take to heart.
Setting the scene ahead of time, students in the ‘crash’ vehicles were made up with a wide array of injuries, ‘blood’ spilled on the roadway and everyone involved had a role to play. One passenger in the truck with the intoxicated driver was paralyzed from the waist down in the scenario; the driver and one passenger in the car he hit ‘died’ as a result.
For students watching the drama unfold under cloudy skies on Thursday morning, there was apprehension, as they strained to see who the ‘victims’ were and also as they kept track of what was going on as the emergency crews and police officers arrived on scene. A helicopter came in for a landing a short distance away from the crash and the ‘Grim Reaper’ and his cast of The Living Dead – students who were plucked out of their school classes every 15 minutes earlier in the day on March 27 – silently observed the scene as they made a semi-circle around the events unfolding in the roadway.
Maybe it’s because the realistic-looking crash is staged in the middle of Escalon-Bellota Road; maybe it’s because the emergency response crews handle the scene just as if they were racing the clock to save lives; maybe it’s just because my longevity in Escalon means I know practically every student playing a role in the drama … whatever the reason, this always gets me.
Or maybe it’s because I have seen the real thing, just as those emergency workers and police officers have. Too many times, promising lives cut short by one bad decision.
It also ‘gets’ the students who take part – since they are cut off from their family and friends for the duration of the program. Once they start, they don’t get to ‘go home’ again until it’s over. No cell phone. No texting. No tweeting. Just as if they were really gone.
Students are typically drawn from a cross section of the student body to make sure the impact on the school and community is widely felt.
Is it hard to watch? Yes, it is.
Is it tough to be a part of? Most definitely.
But it’s a temporary pain, one that we know will fade when the students come back to ‘life’ after the program ends and are reunited, amidst big bear hugs and flowing tears, with family, friends and fellow students.
After viewing the crash scene on Thursday, the juniors and seniors came in for a Friday morning ‘funeral’ and learned the fate of the crash victims and the DUI driver. They also heard from a couple of participants and some guest speakers, one of whom was a young woman who made the decision to drink and drive – and killed someone as a result.
For the Escalon and Vista students, they were given the information and some tools which hopefully will allow them to make the right decision when the time comes. Whether it’s having a designated driver to make sure everyone gets home or calling a parent to come get them – the goal is for students to make the smart and safe choice.
So we can chronicle and celebrate their successes; not mourn their lost opportunities.
Marg Jackson is editor of The Escalon Times, The Oakdale Leader and The Riverbank News. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.