Thursday, March 7 began as any other ordinary day for the students at Eleanor Roosevelt High School. As my first period classmates and I settled into our customary morning routine, we were suddenly interrupted with an intercom announcement.
Despite this occurring over a month ago, I recall the words verbatim: “Students of Eleanor Roosevelt High School, it is with great despair that we regret to inform the student body that we unfortunately lost two of our own students who were involved in a vehicle related accident this morning at 7:42 am. Every 15 minutes, someone in the US dies or is seriously injured in an alcohol related incident. Today the victims of this statistic happened to be students here at our school.”
At this moment, the entire dynamic of our classroom completely transformed into a silent sanctuary that fostered an exchange of blank stares among students. While we sat in dumbfounded silence, I instantly realized what was going on as I recalled upon the key phrase emphasized in the intercom announcement: “every 15 minutes.“
As I began to piece together what was happening, my thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a crowd of administrators who rushed into our classroom with a photograph and a single rose. As they rapidly entered, they remained silent and stood amongst one another solemnly, as if they awaited further direction. And like clockwork, another announcement came on the intercom proclaiming the unfortunate passing of two additional students, one of them being from my first period class. (Hence the rose and photograph they placed upon her desk.)
After the departure of the administrators, we quickly identified the pattern in the following messages, as distinctly every 15 minutes, an announcement would be made proclaiming the death of another student. This continued for about an hour and a half until an announcement was made that released all juniors and seniors from class and to report to the intersection directly in front of the school. As intrigued students scuffled and scattered out of multiple buildings, everyone hastily made their way towards the nearest intersection where two cars were visibly positioned near one another in a demolished state.
As I passed dozens of students with astonished stares, I noticed the shattered exterior of both cars and the deceased students listed earlier positioned on top of the hood, on the street, and peeking out of the glass windows. Despite being a staged simulation, the visuals of seeing friends and familiar faces reenacting such a realistic scenario are images that will stay with me for a lifetime.
As we spectated in utter silence, we witnessed the standard procedures that would be taken in any other realistic occurrence, with police, fire fighters and ambulances arriving to the scene. As the simulation progressed, we witnessed trained professionals pry the seemingly shut car doors open to reach the unresponsive students. While some were implied to have survived the collision, others remained desolate, as they lay lifeless within the remains of the two cars. As CPR specialists and first responders carried the deceased students on stretchers and proceeded to wrap the remains of what was implied to be left of the accident, we witnessed one of our fellow classmates cooperating with police as he engaged in a standard sobriety test where he was instructed to walk in a uniform line, as well as participate in other DUI related inquiries.
This simulation centered around driving under the influence, was primarily targeted towards juniors and seniors, who are considered young drivers. After the reenactment concluded, I invested further research into the simulation, and discovered the existence of the “Every 15 Minutes” program. The program is dedicated to spreading awareness about driving under the influence and the detrimental effects it can have upon those involved. While this program may sound familiar to some, the program tends to present the simulation every two years, to ensure that all students have the opportunity to witness it either their junior or senior year. Following the reenactment of “the accident,” is a funeral service held the next day for the deceased students, in which all students are obligated to attend.
Following the memorial service are speeches made by several students, staff and survivors of those who were involved in alcohol related incidents. The experience as a whole is somewhat indescribable as it tackles such an emotionally heavy topic that happens to feature individuals close to you.
Finally, to conclude the simulation, a video highlighting the reenactment from the day prior is shown, including a storyline leading up to the crash featuring the students involved in the accident. While this simulation was designed to be informative regarding the consequences of driving under the influence, I interpreted this as a means to further investigate the concept of what it means to drive under the influence in general.
In my personal opinion, I don’t necessarily believe that driving under the influence is only applicable to alcohol, and that it extends to all forms of influences such as medication, and mood enhancements including marijuana. While the legalization and growing popularity of utilizing these substances has arisen among today’s youth, it’s imperative that we fully comprehend the potential consequences we risk when partaking in these activities.
While some may have varying opinions regarding these somewhat controversial topics, I believe that whether you support, disapprove or use with discretion, one thing should remain unanimous: never sacrifice the safety of yourself and others in general, and always refrain from driving under the influence.
To look at the video of the “Every 15 Minutes” simulation, click here: https://youtu.be/fue1AmYSKkI (video production accredited to Active Entertainment)