Reality Check

Melissa Stagnaro

As I watched SADD’s Mock Crash demonstration at the Norwich High School today, I had to keep reminding myself that the events unfolding before me weren’t real.

Despite the fact that I’d seen the “victims” of the crash laughing and joking as their hideous wounds (worthy of any movie special effects department) were applied, witnessed the finishing touches to the carefully constructed crash scene and Fire Chief Tracy Chawgo had outlined for me exactly how the demonstration would play out, it still evoked an emotional response from me. The back of my throat tightened as soon as I heard the chief make the 911 call that started the ball rolling. I felt the prickle of tears as soon as I heard the sirens fast approaching.

Responders were on the scene in mere moments, but to me it felt like it took forever to arrive. Sure, I knew that the students were acting and it wasn’t really a life or death situation, but that didn’t stop my heart from beating uncontrollably. I wanted to run around shouting for someone to help these kids. Even though the police officers, firefighters and emergency responders were doing just that right before my eyes.

And this was me, an adult with no real connection to the students participating in this pre-prom wake up call. I can’t imagine what was going through the hearts and heads of the juniors and seniors who watched the demonstration. They were watching people they knew lying bloody on the asphalt, being removed from a car with the jaws of life, lead away in handcuffs, and, yes, even zipped into a body bag. From the looks of rapt attention on their faces, I’d like to think it hit home with them as well.

I assure you that images of this thankfully mock crash will be with me for a very long time. In time, they may fade from my thoughts and the others who witnessed the demonstration today, but not for those EMTs, firefighters and police officers. They are reminded all too often of the fragile nature of human life and how it takes but a moment for things to go horribly, horribly wrong. They are the ones left to pick up the pieces.

It is why they are such willing participants in these types of demonstrations. Every emergency responder I spoke to on the scene told me the same thing: That they’ll do whatever they can in order to help at least one person make the decision not to drive after they’ve been drinking or to refuse to get in the car with someone who has.

They know first hand that the wrong decision, can cost someone their life.

As a community, we have endured too many fatal crashes. I hope that not only the Norwich High School students who watched this demonstration today, but everyone, will take this message to heart.

I ask you, as you celebrate this holiday weekend, or get ready for prom or graduation, or any time really – please, think twice before getting behind the wheel if you’ve been drinking or before getting into a car with anyone who has.

Making the wrong decision could be one you’ll never live to regret.