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Sober thoughts: Mount Si students stage mock crash for Think and Drive week | Slideshow
"What did you do?"
Tracie Smith's howl shreds the stunned silence on Schusmann Avenue Thursday morning, as a sickening scene begins.
Staggering with shock and mindless of two cuts on her face, Smith confronts a dazed and bleeding Taylor Pearlstein, staring, horrified, at the hood of her car, where her boyfriend Chace Carlson is lying prone.
"You've been drinking! What have you done to my babies?" Smith screams again, but soon, all sound is drowned by incoming sirens, and the hydraulic pump for the "jaws of life" equipment.
About 50 feet from the crushed cars and blood-spattered victims, Mount Si High School seniors and juniors watched without a word, as paramedics tended to their injured friends and teammates. Reece Karalus, Meg Krivanek, Carlson and Pearlstein were in the grey car, Amanda Smith, her little brother Braden, and her mom, Tracie, were in the red one, when they collided head-on.
“We see this every day,” announced Lt. Kelly Gall of Snoqualmie Fire and Rescue. He’s not heartless, just sad, as he describes the scenario that led up to the crash. The four in the grey car made the wrong decision, to drink and drive after prom, and it harmed not only themselves, but other people on the road that night. Amanda chose not to drink at her prom after-party. Her friends were drinking, but she called her mom to get a ride home. She died, anyway.
“The first time we went through it, it was really emotional,” Amanda admitted, as she sat in her tarp-covered car just before the mock crash exercise began Thursday.
The last time, too.
“I had a super initial shock. I didn’t know they were going to be laid out on the cars like that,” said senior Alex Welsh.
“It was super-realistic …” added Kalyn McRae. “We’re in class with all those people, and just seeing, especially Chace, and knowing his dreams of going into the Air Force....”
“As soon as they took the blue tarps off the cars, I thought ‘my God, this looks real,’” said Sarah Potts. I saw my friend Amanda in the red car… it made it so real to see my friends in that kind of situation.”
“Especially Amanda’s Mom,” added fellow senior Megan Ferkovich, who watched the exercise with Potts. “Her reaction just made it seem so real…”
It was exactly the response that the ASB student relations committee, chaired by Megan McCulley, wanted when they started planning the event at the start of the school year.
McCulley and committee member Alina Reed described how they chose their accident victims from the student body, wanting to use actual couples in the one car, and a family in the other.
“We wanted to make it more real, by showing that even if you make the right decision—” Reed began.
“You can still get hurt,” McCulley finished.
For several students, though, no reminders were necessary.
“This was kind of a replay for us, because we were in a drunk-driving crash last summer,” Ross Tassara said. “I was driving the truck.”
Tassara escaped serious injury in that August accident, but one of his friends broke his neck, another broke his jaw, and Tassara was charged with two counts of vehicular assault. He doesn’t drink any more.
“I didn’t need to (see the mock crash exercise), but it’s definitely necessary for the other kids to see it, who haven’t been through it, to know what it’s like, and how you feel after,” he said.
Another friend, Dewald De Klerk, was not in the truck that day, but said it’s been tough for him to see Tassara’s struggles after the accident. He has been in two alcohol-involved crashes, he said, and hoped that students took the mock crash exercise and memorial service assembly afterward, seriously.
Organizers of the event were taking their audience seriously, at least, acknowledging that some of them were going to drink alcohol, even on prom night. They just asked that the students avoid driving if they’d been drinking, and vice versa.
“The drinking usually happens after prom,” explained McCulley.
Keynote assembly speaker Eric Munson noted that four out of 10 high school seniors had been drunk in the past 30 days, a statistic that sent a murmur through the gathered students. He then talked about his daughter’s death in a drunk-driving accident, a story that overwhelmed several students, who left the gym in tears.
After his emotional retelling, he said “I realize some of you have already made your plans for prom night, but I’m asking you to change them.”
“I think people don’t really think about this, they think, ‘oh, this can’t happen,’ and they don’t make a plan,” Ferkovich said, “but I think it’s really important people do, because this can happen.”