Traffic had slowed long before the couple come upon a horrendous scene…
They lean closer to the windshield to get a better look. Their eyes well-up and their stomachs tighten at the sight. It is like nothing they have ever seen.
Cars are crumbled like balls of tinfoil; bodies lay on the ground in shreds; others cover the hood of a vehicle as if the struggle ends in that moment; the stench of blood filters the air like an unwelcome guest.
Victims who survive the head-on collision stumble through the rubble in shock, unable to speak. Their friends are strewn along the roadside; they are dead. They are all teenagers.
Bodies are lifted into ambulances and rushed to the hospital; those who can manage are questioned for breaking the law and taken to jail.
The kids who don’t make it are transported to the mortuary.
This is not a true story … yet my heart races as I write.
“Every 15 Minutes” is a program acted out every two years by Fallbrook High School. These teens want to encourage their peers to make good choices in life. The name comes from the fact that every fifteen minutes someone dies on America highways. This number has risen since the program began.
The agenda concerns issues of alcohol and drugs, reckless behavior, and the loss of life.
After this “accident” the decease paint their faces and roam the school campus like the walking dead, they speak to no one.
Afterward they go to a special place to spend the night. There is a very intense discussion about how they feel, what if they had died, what would they say to those who are left behind.
The young folks decide to write letters to their families; one last chance to pour out the feelings inside.
A video had been made of the “accident” and was shown to all the juniors and seniors the next day at school. They witness the heartbreak of parents at the scene, at the police station and at the hospital.
The “walking dead” hold up death certificates they have personally created.
Some students have seen this before, they are not impressed. Until…
The friends they have lost begin to read their goodbye letters, feelings from the grave. The stillness in the air turns as somber as a tomb. Everyone wants to hear what the “dead” have to say.
When John Buchanan, public information officer for North County Fire Protection District, is asked why he finds the program so important. He doesn’t hesitate: “Because the roadways in this area are treacherous with little room for error and—teenagers think they are invincible.”
A true personal story:
He goes to dinner with lifelong friend John and his wife, Leann to celebrate.
John and Leann are behind Mike when he takes the curve in the picture above. They are horrified when he loses control and slams into the wall on the left.
Although he is wearing a helmet, 21-year-old Mike later dies at the hospital.
The names aren’t real but the people and the accident are. John is my friend’s son.
I wonder what Mike would have written in his “goodbye letter.”
May Your Glass Always Be Half Full