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Thursday, March 13, 2014

On the fragility of life and the importance of our choices

Shattered Dreams drunk driving simulation: Stratford High School, 2014

Today Stratford High School presented Shattered Dreams, in which students, faculty, and community volunteers come together to simulate a drunk driving accident in order to raise awareness and prevent these types of tragedies amongst teens. At 9:00am, all upper-classmen walked to the street along campus where two cars were positioned to look as if they had run into one another, both full of actual students. The “driver” of one car had been drinking, while the “driver” of the other car had been texting. Over the course of an hour, students and faculty witnessed fire, police, and EMS pull students from the vehicles and strap them to gurneys, zip them into body bags, or throw them in the back of police cars. One student was life-flighted to Ben Taub Hospital. As the scene unfolded, friends and parents of the participants were present to witness and grieve for the victims. A hearse came at the end to take bodies to the morgue. Tonight, the student actors will fulfill their roles further, as if they were truly involved in the accident. Parents will write obituaries for their children. Those who died in the accident will actually visit the morgue. And those students who were injured will spend the night in the hospital, their families by their sides. The rest of the student body will remain in class today, listening to the sound of a heartbeat flat-line over the PA every 15 minutes to represent the rate at which someone dies in a drunk driving accident in this country.

a HUGE thanks to Kim Lynch and the Stratford Yearbook staff for these incredible photos of the event.

This moving and tragic scenario will hopefully help teenagers recognize the true cost of one bad decision. I remember feeling invincible in my youth, thinking that tragedy befell other people, but not me. My normal life lay before me, vast and full of possibility. It isn’t until now that I recognize how foolish it was for me to think that way, and how lucky I am to be here to write this post. 

This event hit close to home, as I lost two dear friends to a drunk driving accident in 2001, just around the corner from today’s simulation. Josh Pease and Seth Havers had been drinking heavily at the rodeo and, after taking others home, took a curve too quickly, hit a tree, and died at the scene. Their deaths were a tragic blow to those who loved them, and our impromptu memorial service at the scene of the accident left me feeling fragile and empty. Josh and Seth were lights in this world that went out too soon. 

Also on my mind is the news of the tragic accident in downtown Austin last night during SXSW, in which a drunk driver sped the wrong way down a one-way street, crossed a barricade, and hit a crowd of pedestrians head-on. The accident took place in front of the Mohawk, our old haunt when we still lived in the capital city. In fact, we spent most of our SXSW experiences at the Mohawk, and our friends still visit the venue regularly. Tragically, the accident left 2 dead or 23 injured, and I’m thinking of those victims and their families during this tragic time and thankful for the safety of my friends. 

Life is fragile, friends. Make good choices. Remember your own mortality. Keep the ones you love close. My heart is heavy today…


  1. I think this is a much more effective way of delivering the message to the youth. Distracted driving is becoming a real menace with the surge in accidents due to using phones while driving. I hope that by making April the official DD's awareness month in the U.S., many people today would learn that a text or a call can wait, and is not a reasonable price for anyone's life. I'll keep your message to heart, and pass them around. I wish one day we could rid ourselves of this menace once and for all.

    Jamie @ Butler & Company

  2. Wow! I took part in this program in high school in NC!
    I was one of the mangled kids they pulled from the car, though we decided not to have the heartbeat and car crash noises broadcast out of respect for a teacher whose child had passed away in a crash. I had almost forgotten about this. Recently I was the only witness to a disturbing car crash that involved drug use, this scenario was so similar. Sometimes, a tragic reality can be prevented.

  3. This is certainly a good way to publicize the horrors of drunk driving. People's lives are lost because of the simple fact that people think they can go behind the wheel when they can't even walk straight. There's nothing more awful than losing a loved one due to a senseless accident, and we all hope things like this can help people see reason and not do such things.

    Kim Hunter

  4. One can learn things from his or her surroundings and can make a difference in their lives. Kurt Penber understood the basic concept and importance of learning and gave his life for the caus

  5. The realistic depiction of those incidents is hopefully enough to convince the participants to be more careful while driving. The program portrayed what most drunk drivers fail to realize – the life-altering outcome of these accidents caused by their neglect. These programs are certainly a great way to remind people of the consequences of their actions, however small they might have seemed at that moment. Thanks for sharing!

    Roman Barnes @ J & J Law

  6. It’s a good way to raise awareness and prevent drunk driving accidents. While the high cost of a DUI case will likely discourage people from drunk driving, some people do not consider it a determining factor. If you ever get arrested, you should look for good attorney immediately to get out from this mess. My brother is system admin at a Los Angeles DUI lawyer office and often tells me how DUI cases if not fought properly can destroy your life.