May 13th and 14th: by Sandi Argo
What began as a rainy, damp and cool day appeared to get worse for several students of the Jacksboro High School. A “tragic accident” at the school parking lot set the stage for what quickly became a very emotional day for some. It was what every first responder would call their “favorite kind of accident” …it was all fake, it was all part of the Shattered Dreams program, and everyone walked away (although some “died” at the scene).
The Shattered Dreams program is a 1 or 2 day event in which a mock accident is set up and played out as though it were the real deal. Students, and sometimes faculty members, are set up in the scene, complete with blood and “other things” such as gaping wounds, “broken bones” and even fatalities, in hopes of making a strong impact of drunk or distracted driving to those who witness the drama.
According to recent statistics, 1 in 5 to 1 in 10 cars out on the roads are being operated by either a drunk driver or a distracted one. Staggering numbers, even in an area such as Jack County, where the population is 8957 (according to the 2013 stats). A recent study showed that each weekday, an average of over 10,000 cars pass through Jacksboro, making the numbers something that we all need to pay attention to.
On this day, students participating in the program were packed up with an overnight bag, and prepared to spend the night isolated from family and friends at an undisclosed location. Once the accident was set up by the Jacksboro Fire Department, Jacksboro Police Department and the Jack County Sheriff Office, the students were prepared by the Jacksboro High School Theatre Production Team, led by Donna Fenter. According to Fenter, “The students of the Production Team create their own makeup, using a variety of materials. They are very talented”.
Hayden Overton, Emilee Florance, Natalee Sanchez, and Laynee Pierce were placed in the first car, while Hunter Hackley, Yancey Laake, Cayli Culpepper and Avery Robinson were in the second car. One student (Natalee Sanchez) was lying through the windshield, on top of the car.
The Grim Reaper stood quietly by as the scene unfolded. Once the firefighters had the victims that were “alive” loaded up onto the ambulances (thanks to Faith Community Hospital) and headed to the ER, the Grim Reapers slowly and methodically passed their scythe over the bodies, signifying their passing.
Once the accident was cleared, students somberly went back to their classrooms and school resumed as usual…or so it seemed. In recognition of the fact that every 15 minutes someone loses their life to drunk or distracted driving, beginning at noon a student was pulled from class every 15 minutes. As they sat in their classrooms, the Grim Reaper would show up in silent fashion and remove the unsuspecting student. Once they left the classroom, they stopped at the “graveyard” to read the obituaries, written by the parents. These were heartfelt and struck a deep emotion from those that participated in the program. In the location they were taken to, away from friends, family and communication (all devices were removed from students) and they were given the opportunity to hear stories from people that had been effected by drunk or distracted driving. Students spent the night in this isolated group. That evening the students were assigned what one described as the “hardest assignment that I have ever had to do”… they wrote a letter to their parents, siblings and friends telling them what they didn’t get a chance to say before their “passing”.
On the following day an assembly was held at the high school gym. A very special guest speaker, Candy Sargent-Lowe shared the tragic story of her daughter, Jana Kay, and how an accident changed their lives forever. Many tears were shed during the presentation, and the audience sat silently while they listened. Following the presentation from Ms. Sargent-Lowe, the students that were kept isolated the night before were given the chance to read their letter that they had written to their parents. It was during this part of the program that even grown men cried. Shelby Vanderkay was one of the students that read. Her father, Sheriff Deputy David Vanderkay, sat quietly behind her as she read “Dad, you will never have to worry again about not making it home…I will always be here watching over you”… the sniffles that were heard across the room came from people of all walks of life, all ages, that could feel the pain in her words. It was a touching moment felt by all.
As the program wrapped up, the entities that were involved in the project were introduced and handed plaques showing their appreciation to what they have done for the program. It is the mission of those involved to change lives by presenting the Shattered Dreams program. Even if it is just one. Nobody can predict the future, but if that one life is saved then the effect can be like a ripple on the water, the impact of saving that one life can be great. Kudos to the men, women and students that gave their time, their energy, their hearts and souls for that one.