Every Fifteen Minutes
Every 15 Minutes
Every 15 Minutes
For thirty-six hours, I was dead. I was dead to my parents, to my family, to my friends, to any and all forms of communication, and to the world. I was a ghost, the living dead, reliving stupid decisions that cost me my life. I watched my close friends and classmates die. I watched others mourn. I walked through every possible scenario and consequence of my decision to drink and drive. At the end of those thirty-six hours, I wiped the white, ghost-like paint off of my face and reentered the living world as a changed person, one who fully understood the severity of the decision to drink and drive.
Every fifteen minutes someone dies in an alcohol related car crash. That’s the mantra of the Every 15 Minutes Program, something I was lucky enough to be involved in last spring. This program is able to walk you through some extremely realistic and potential repercussions of the decision to drive while under the influence. You witness the effect it has on your family, friends, school, and city. You experience the potential side effects, from jail to death. You walk the path of the parents and friends of the victim, as well as the victim’s own footsteps. This program not only teaches against driving while under the influence, but it matures you as a person, increases your leadership abilities, and gives you a new appreciation for the delicacy of life. Throughout those thirty-six hours, you grow, evolve, and emerge as a better person- a person with a new mantra.
For me, my evolution began on an average Thursday morning. It was first period, English class, when someone knocked at the door. A cloaked figure, the “Grim Reaper,” entered and eerily said, “Emily Nobles, your time is up. Come with me.” As the confused Emily began to pack up her things, a state police officer came into the classroom and began reading. “Emily Ann Nobles, daughter of Tom and Becky Nobles, was born on October 28, 1992...” This was her obituary. When he had finished and left, my English teacher shakily tried to restart class, despite the whispering and even snickering that had filled the room. As the period went on, the Grim Reaper came and called out more and more of the seniors, with a police officer reading more and more obituaries. “Austin Wulf will be greatly missed by his younger sister Lauren, who looked up to her brother more than anyone else in the world.” “Leah Nikki Wagner leaves behind her grandmother… “ What began as a weird, awkward, surprising, and even comical situation was now depressing; our classroom was emptying and several people were crying. Then the door opened for me. I had to stand there and listen to my obituary that my father wrote. This wasn’t just about other people, about the people who were bad and drank and drove. This wasn’t about my classmates or just a random obituary in the paper. This was about my life and my death. When I woke up that morning, I didn’t expect to die. I was dreading and expecting a standard, boring Thursday, yet at 8:15, my life was dramatically altered. This could happen to anyone, at any time of the day. Every time you get in the car to go to school or to make a quick run to the grocery store, you run a risk of being hit and killed. You never know when your time is up, and Every 15 Minutes quickly made a devastating impact and improvement on my personal view on life-you must treat every moment with upmost care, because as cheesy and cliché as that sounds, you never know when it’s your last.
After turning in our phones and other belongings and being transformed into the “living dead,” we attended the mock car crash.
Luke, one of the senior boys, was the drunk driver, who had rolled his car on the way to class that morning. Emily, the girl mentioned above, and Caleb were both passengers that were thrown from the car, while Tyler was slumped in the backseat, unconscious. Emily’s arm had been sliced off as she flew out, and she was lying in the street, blood gushing from her shoulder. She was pronounced dead upon arrival. While firemen worked with the Jaws of Life to free the boy in the car, an ambulance came flying down the street for Caleb, who had suffered severe injuries. Soon a helicopter came to air evacuate the now freed, but still unresponsive Tyler. Only Luke was unscathed, as he walked around in shock before being handcuffed and placed in the back of the cop car. The Grim Reapers were walking around, the firemen and EMTs were working frantically, and the school and the program’s participants were watching with tears streaming down their face.
I knew all along that this was fake and that my friends since third grade were simply acting. That obviously wasn’t Emily’s real arm. Yes, Roswell had thrown out the big guns, with the helicopters, fire trucks, and wrecked cars, but this wasn’t real. Yet I couldn’t stop crying. The authenticity of the crash scene made you overlook your reason and live in the moment, without any rationality. As a “living dead,” I was unable to talk to anyone outside of the program, so I simply watched my mother cry and my little nine-year old sister looking at me with fear and confusion. Emily was covered up with a white sheet and then put into the back of a hearse. I’ve heard horror stories of people dying like this, but never in the safe bubble of my Christian school. This only happened to the “bad” people, never people like Emily Nobles. This element of the program was so effective because it awoke me to the possibilities of this happening to the “good” people in the world. Seeing loved ones grieving over someone standing beside you does something to you; it rips up your heart a little. It was ten in the morning, but Every 15 Minutes was already working on my evolution. They wasted no time in putting someone like me, who had never lost a close friend before, right into the reality of the situation. This could happen, at any time, to the good and bad people I knew, solely because of a liquid substance.
Drinking and driving might seem like a minimal thing, with celebrities like Lindsay Lohan or Mel Gibson getting a DUI every other week. The worst thing that could happen is an embarrassing picture on the cover of People, right? Wrong. For the remainder of the day, we experienced every possible outcome. We toured the jail, spending time in our own private cell and eating a hardly edible jail lunch. We viewed the intricate, exclusive areas of the morgue, like the freezer of preserved bodies, the cremator, and the embalming room. After having a mild panic attack while in the freezer, I knew this was one place I didn’t want to be in for many years. Then we experienced the influence it has on our loved ones.
Have you ever thought about your funeral? Wished for people to wear yellow and celebrate or picked out the songs you want played? Have you ever considered that you could actually attend your own funeral? That day, one of the “living dead,” Caleb Kimberly, got to attend his. As we walked into the funeral home’s chapel, we saw a familiar face hanging beside the casket. The school’s pastor was speaking at the front, and people we knew were sitting in the pews. Caleb’s mother and grandmother wept loudly at the front, for a son who was sitting a few rows behind them. You might want cheerful praise songs sung at your funeral, but I can guarantee you that when you die from others or your own stupidity, cheerfulness will be the last thing experienced there. The children are supposed to bury their parents, not the other way around. This aspect of the program succeeded in making this experience more personal. Even though this wasn’t my funeral, I could easily put myself in Caleb’s place. My mother wouldn’t be able to get out of bed in the mornings. My room would be vacant and untouched, full of overly painful memories. Sure, drinking is your decision. This is your life and you can life it however you’d like. However, when you are in that “I” mentality, you forget about your mother. You forget about your grandmother. You forget about the people who love you even more than you love yourself. Making an unwise decision doesn’t just hurt you, but creates damaging aftermath on everyone around you.
That night, Every 15 Minutes focused this problem’s effects on Roswell, New Mexico. Parents and friends of local teenagers who have died in a alcohol related collision spoke to us, crying their way through the explanation and aftereffects of their children’s deaths. Next, we made it even more personal by writing letters to our parents of our “I wish I would haves” like we were deceased. It was without a doubt the most challenging and awful thing I have ever had to do. I believe if I am ever tempted to drink and drive, that is the thing that will keep me from it. The regrets, unfufilled dreams, and inevitable pain I’d cause my parents would be in the back of my mind. Every 15 Minutes is more effective than one might think. Outsiders see it as some event, where kids get splattered in fake blood and goo and get preached at about the evils of alcohol. What those people don’t understand is this isn’t just an activitiy; this is an experience, one you are fully immersed in, that feels so real you can’t stop weeping, imagining your loved ones reading your final words. At the school assembly the second day, we read our letters in front of everyone to our parents. As we held on the people who were once strangers to us, as we cried with friends, and as we determined to never drink and drive, we became forever bonded and forever evolved.
When I look back on this adventure, I can’t see any downfalls. It wasn’t cheesy, overly repetitive, or obviously staged as an outsider might assume. Each event, whether sitting in the jail cell, experiencing a mother cry over a lost son, or laughing while driving go-carts around a parking lot with beer goggles on, hit home more and more. Each event permanently changed me. The people working were state police officers, paramedics, firemen, or nurses. They were supreme, at first intimidating, but as the program went on, I saw even the burliest of the state cops break down. I have ten or so of the volunteer’s numbers in my phone, and I believe that if I was drunk at a party and needing a ride at four in the morning, I could call the head of state police and get a ride home, no questions asked. My leaders became my friends and in the process, I became more of a leader myself.
Drinking and driving programs might seem like a no-brainer. “Friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” “You booze, you cruise, you lose.” Yet it can be more than just that. I’ve never drank, let alone driven while drunk, but it is still extremely applicable to me. Texting, scanning the radio, or, as Emily said, putting on mascara as you speed towards school are all dangerous and can end up with the same effects. Life is precious, and should always be treated as so. That text can wait ten minutes, and everyone likes a natural eye anyways. Every 15 Minutes revolutionized my previously naive approach to
driving and even my view on my life. I try to treat my family with more care, never knowing when could be my last “I’ll see you later.” College is when you’re supposed to “experience anything and everything,” and driving after a few beers is no big deal. I believe the opposite. I believe taking a friend’s keys, no matter how irritated they might get, will exceed the consequences of their mother crying over a lost child. Every school and city should go through a program like this. Through the authentic occurrences, sympathetic volunteers, and personal application, you won’t leave the program the same. If our country can thoroughly educate more high school and college students on this issue, the death rate for this would decrease. We can improve our country, our lives, and the lives of innocent victims. Stand up for what you know is right and live to see another day. Every fifteen minutes someone dies in an alcohol related car crash-don’t let that be you.
For more information, visit http://www.every15minutes.com/