Police Journal, Uncategorized

A Sober Time As Prom Approaches

By Heidi Zemach for SCN

It’s almost the end of the 2012 school year, and high school prom is this Saturday night. In preparation for prom and graduation, the high school hosted “Every 15 minutes” a mock drill of a deadly drunken driving car accident in its parking lot two days last week. Then, on Tuesday of this week, the Seward Prevention Coalition held a town meeting in which some 60 people attended, focusing on underage drinking, and how to prevent it.

The two-day long event at the high school was truly a shocking and memorable experience for the 18 volunteers who participated, for their classmates and parents. The students witnessed an extremely realistic-looking crash scene, bloodied friends and classmates being cut out of their cars and taken away in an ambulance on gurneys. They saw one of their friends handcuffed and taken to jail downtown, and they attended court later in the afternoon to see her tried and sentenced. The girl, Jessica Stallings, spent seven hours in an actual jail, unable to stomach the very idea of jail food. Meanwhile, the teens who were not volunteers saw their classrooms visited by the “Grim Reaper” (Dakota Nickell pictured above with his dad, Officer Alan Nickell) every 15 minutes during the day. The cloaked apparition pointed to each  student, and they had to leave the classroom, not to be seen again until the next day. Meanwhile,  obituaries popped up on their lockers, and fake tombstones, with their names and epitaphs on them appeared in a makeshift graveyard in front of the school.

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At an assembly on Friday, the “living dead” students reappeared on stage to grateful applause. All listened as community member Bruce Knofel told them about the crash that killed his wife Ann, (their former counselor) and badly injured him on the Seward Highway in 2009. They also heard from Mike Glaser, who spent eight years in jail after causing a a fatal accident while driving drunk. And teacher Kyle Schneider told how his good friend had died in an accident at 21.  All warned that making a single bad choice, to drink and drive, or let a friend do it, could have terrible lasting consequences that reverberates through everyone in the community.

Perhaps enough tears were shed then, perhaps not. But the worst emotionally probably came when parents of the student volunteers were visited by police officers bearing death certificates for their children, informing them that they had been “killed.” It might have been a mock event, but it felt all too real as they received the news, and as they wrote letters to their children “from beyond the grave” about their lives together, and what they wished they had said or done differently. The students also wrote their parents letters while sequestered that night, and shared them together the next day.  That letter was the hardest thing he ever had to write, said one boy at the town hall meeting. A girl said the experience was wrenching, but she’s glad she did it, and wishes that more people could go through it.

My hearts go out to the students and parents, to the police, and even to the Bear Creek Volunteer Fire Department folks who had to cut the “dead and injured” students out of the cars, reliving actual experiences they might have had. Let’s only hope that these two efforts help, and that everyone stays safe.

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2 Comments

  1. I think this is a great program and I would like to see it take place every year but I know the cost is what keeps it from happening. This can’t prepare us for when and if this actually happens, but what it does is reminds us that it can happen. It may appear to be very traumatic, but we as a society are becoming numb to the real life issues happening in today’s world. Thank you for everyone who participated I as a citizen of Seward appreciate the experience that these kids got. Thanks Lynn Hettick

  2. I agree that it’s a great program but I think having it every year would end up making it not as powerful because people would get de-sensitized to it. Huge thanks to everyone who participated and all the voluteers who helped organize this event!!