My Experience in Every 15 Minutes

These photos depict the course of events throughout the day in the Every 15 Minutes program.

Photo courtesy of Justin Bailey.

These photos depict the course of events throughout the day in the Every 15 Minutes program.

Bridgette Roberts, Photojournalist

With butterflies swarming around in my stomach, I sat in my seat during first period anxiously awaiting the extremely emotional day that I could no way have been prepared for. Thinking that I was going to be pulled out during third period where most of my friends were, I got pulled out during first period unexpectedly. This took me by surprise and frightened me a bit as the Grim Reaper slowly crept in the room summoning me. Immediately, my first thought was that I did not want to leave my friends and classmates. I felt unprepared and feared to go so soon.

In the Every 15 Minutes program, a small group of students were chosen that represented all different aspects and groups of the school. These students “died” periodically, literally every 15 minutes, while the sound of a horrible car crash played over the loudspeaker. Throughout the day, more and more students were taken out of their classes and joined the rest of us in the ASB room. The purpose of this program is to educate students about the consequences of drunk driving and make it seem as real as possible. There were several rules to abide by for being a part of this program. First, we were not supposed to share anything regarding the program to our friends or classmates. We also had to turn in our phones right away to prevent communication with other students and possibly ruining the program’s whole purpose to impact teens.

During school, seniors and juniors were excused from their classes to observe a fake car crash scene that was set up to appear extremely real. A few students partook in the crash and acted the whole scene out which was very emotional, especially for the “drunk driver,” played by Sierra Bauerle (12). Once school got out, we took a bus to the Fullerton courthouse where we saw a fake trial with the mothers of a few of the students who “died” speaking in front of the judge while Sierra was tried and proven guilty. Although it was all just acting, the scene really appeared real and made me think about what it would actually be like to be a part of an actual drunk driving incident on both ends.

After the trial hearing ended, we went to a mortuary and were taken through the typical process a body immediately goes through following its death. In fact, we walked the mortuary and graveyard to get a better understanding of how real this tragedy is and how common it happens. The tour began in the mortuary funeral room with a casket with a mirror lying inside. Its purpose was to make us reflect upon what it would look like if we were there in that casket having to watch our parents grieve. After the funeral room, we walked out to the graveyard and met a man that showed us what it is like to bury a dead body in the casket and lower it. I clearly remember him mentioning how the hardest part of his job is to watch and listen to the mothers who have lost their children scream to him telling him to stop the casket lowering into the ground. Then they would just weep and be comforted by family and friends as the man lowers the casket into the deep hole in the ground, burying away their loved ones.

That night, we stayed in a hotel together listened to a woman share her story about her son’s life and death due to drinking and driving. He was her only son, and she loved him so incredibly much; this was when the whole day hit me hard. It was all very emotional, so when I heard the woman speak and start crying, I lost it. Right then, the reality of it all set in. I realized how prevalent drunk driving accidents are and how important it is to prevent them. One life taken away by an ignorant choice can affect so many people. I also had a greater understanding and appreciation for my parents because I know that they do everything for us out of love. Throughout this emotional night, the small group of students in the program became a close-knit family. We exchanged each other’s phone numbers and vowed to create a group chat and support each other with everything.

The next day was the school-wide assembly where our video played, showing each “deceased” student in happy times, followed by the car crash and court case. It was obvious by looking around the gym at the various solemn faces that the program was affecting many students. We walked out to the song “Amazing Grace” while holding candles, and there was a casket in the center of the room. The assembly was meant to resemble a funeral as if we had all actually died. Our parents were there, and they had to watch all of this which was emotional for me to see. When a few students’ parents got up and spoke about the love they had for their children that are now “dead,” it seemed so real it was scary.

There is really no way to explain exactly how much this program impacted all of us, but it most definitely worked. Mckenna Biegert (12) stated, “Because of the Every Fifteen Minutes program, I am devoted to preventing drunk driving as much as possible, no matter what it takes.” How I know that this program worked is that we still use the group chat and text one another whenever people need car rides to be taken home or know of other people who do in order to prevent drunk driving.

I am so grateful to have been a part of this program and will forever cherish the friendships that I have made. I have made a personal promise to strive to prevent people from risking their lives as well as others by driving while drunk.