It’s all around you. It’s the latest news headline. Your teachers inform you all about the consequences. Your parents assume you know not to do it. But it all becomes very real one day when you see your fellow peers facing the real life consequences of drinking and driving.
“I saw some students get emotional. I was in the car, and I looked out and see my friends and they’re just staring at me. And then I put my head back down and continued to get into my role more, and I look up and they’re bawling. And I was like oh my gosh, I didn’t think this would have that kind of impact so immediately,” junior and driver of the sober car Brittany Muller said.
On Thursday, February 20, the junior and senior students witnessed an on-campus mock accident, referred to as Shattered Dreams, that demonstrated the very severe consequences of choosing to drink and drive. And with the help of student and parent volunteers, several months of preparation, and military make-up company Army Moulage, this event was designed to seem as realistic as possible.
But all of this didn’t just happen overnight. In order to make everything seem as realistic as possible, the Winner’s Circle, an organization consisting of students that have made the individual choice not to engage in underage drinking and driving, teamed up with the school’s PTSA not only to make this event seem as realistic as possible, but also to keep Shattered Dreams a secret from all students, specifically juniors and seniors.
“The PTSA came up with this idea, they’ve been trying to get it together for about two years now, and we finally got permission. We needed permission from Mr. Mehlbrech. The principal has to agree to do it. This is our first year to do this event at Johnson,” Winner’s Circle sponsor and librarian Mrs. Terri Sanchez said.
Once the idea to hold Shattered Dreams on campus was approved, Sanchez and the Winner’s Circle began planning what exactly students would see unfold come Thursday morning.
“On the day of the event we will actually have a ‘mock’ accident. We will have air life, ambulance, fire, and police on campus responding to it as if it was a real accident. The only ones who are not aware that this is a mock accident are the ones that will be at the Bexar County Jail. They’re going to bring in a hearse to take out the body of the person that passes in the incident. All juniors and seniors will be invited to come watch the event as it unfolds; the arrest of the accused drunk driver, and the treatments and the air life taking away the students. The students will actually be taken to University Hospital and the Bexar County Jail, where these students will go through the full treatment as if they were injured in an accident; from cutting their clothes off, to real physicians attending to them,” Sanchez said.
Sanchez went on to explain the process of recruiting Winner’s Circle volunteers for this event, in addition to the overall purpose of this program.
“It’s an application process, they had to fill out several forms, answer some, I wouldn’t say essay questions, not formal essay questions, but they had to tell us why they were interested, what they hope to do by being involved with this, how do they want to impact others. Our main hope is that we get students to think twice about getting into a car before they drink and drive. That’s the main hope. Even if you know, we have students who are not drinkers, who can be at a party and tell someone else not to get in the car. Just to spread our message,” Sanchez said.
This event had about 30 volunteers total, including both students and parents, according to an estimate made by Sanchez. The student volunteers portrayed various roles “from crash victims to living dead.” And committed to portraying her role was junior Giselle Leyton.
“I was a ‘living dead’, which is basically, I was one of those people who has died in the past, and we’re gonna represent how many lives we have lost in the past years. I’m just gonna go back in the class, and I’m not allowed to talk to people, I’m not allowed to laugh, I’m not allowed to do anything. It’s gonna be hard, but still it’s gonna be my role in this. I’m playing this role which would be what you’re going to be missing if you died in an accident. That’s what it represents,” Leyton said.
And after about two months of preparation, Leyton hopes that the true purpose of this event really sinks in with the students that get to see it.
“I think Shattered Dreams is gonna have a great impact on students. I think it’s a very eye opening program, and it’s definitely going to have an effect, well hopefully it’s gonna have an effect, on young people who don’t know how to…act in those situations. They don’t realize how dangerous it can be to drive in those conditions,” Leyton said.
Leyton went on to say how the idea of saving at least one student’s life really made her want to get involved with this program; an incentive very much shared with senior Zach Winterrowd as well, who portrayed the victim of a drinking and driving accident.
“I was the person who played the ‘dead’ victim who died on the scene, and so for me there was a lot of emotional and mental preparation, because even just playing dead in such a realistic scene, it just wrecks you. As I was lying on the ground, I was trying to imagine my family’s life without me, and all the heartbreak and agony that they would go through every day and it was mind boggling,” Winterrowd said.
In addition to having to remain ‘dead’ for about an hour and a half, Winterrowd described what it was like having to sit through his own funeral the next day, in which he had to discreetly watch the best friends that he had chosen carry out his casket. Meanwhile, Winterrowd’s parents were officially told by a DPS officer that their son was declared dead at the scene of a drinking and driving accident, and presented with a mock death notice.
“Just having to sit through my own funeral was just…pretty strange. I didn’t get to see much of it because I was backstage, but hearing myself being talked about like that it was…unreal. My parents were wrecked, they didn’t get to see the scene, because they had to be at home when the DPS officers showed up to give them the death notice, and I did see the footage of that, and it was…they were wrecked, and it just broke me down so hard,” Winterrowd said.
One of Winterrowd’s best friends who helped carry his casket was senior Austin Boran, who described his experience that day as nothing less than very emotional.
“It really became realistic to me when I actually had to carry the casket out, and I became really sad. It was very emotional. It definitely opened student’s eyes. I would be heartbroken if something like this ever really did happen. It would be hard for me to come to school everyday. Especially with my best friends. That’s as real as you can make it without it being real,” Boran said.
In addition, senior Jacob Schwab also helped carry Winterrowd’s casket, and furthermore explained how just imagining the thought of one of his “really good friends actually dying” was “pretty tough”.
Although he did not portray the victim, junior Tyler Otten explained his role as the drunk driver, and the severity he attempted to uphold during this experience.
“I had to walk the line, failed that. They had me follow the little light, you know, look to the left without moving your head, failed that. Put my foot up six inches, failed that. The funeral was the most real. And when I went to jail I almost got put in the wrong cell with all the felons, so that was pretty real as well,” Otten said.
Otten also explained how if anything this event could’ve actually been more serious; an idea further elaborated by STAN Counselor Mrs. Carri Elliot.
“The one thing is, you know, it’s like anything. You know how you feel after you watch a really intense movie, it stays with you for a few days, but then the effects wear off. So I’m hoping that parents talk to their kids about it and don’t let the effects wear off. Because this is huge…in Texas, and San Antonio is like, in the top five cities of drunk drivers. So even though it may not, I mean obviously it’s not gonna happen to everybody here, but if we can just stop somebody from getting in the car, somebody from not driving that late at night and maybe save a life, it’s worth it. Even though you’re not driving, I mean, even though you’re not drinking you gotta remember- nothing good can come of being on the road after 12 AM. Because that’s when people are drunk driving,” Elliot said.
Elliot went on to say how even though talking about the consequences of this issue can help teach teenagers to avoid the decision to drink and drive, it is ultimately up to the parents to furthermore model that behavior. And after having a personal experience with his father pertaining to drinking and driving, as well as a very graphic experience with the victim of this type of accident, campus police officer Donald Smith couldn’t agree more.
“Parents should definitely play a big part of that. Not only saying it but modeling not drinking and driving. If you’re a parent you’ve gotta demonstrate that. You never wanna drink and then go behind the wheel. Because then your kid sees that and what do you think he’s gonna do when he’s your age?… Parents definitely gotta model it,” Smith said.
And Muller knows all about what it’s like making an impact on people.
“I really do think this had a severe enough impact on the juniors and the seniors. I mean, I know it sure had an impact on me, all of us, and it affected me in so many ways, and it’ll always be with me. I know it will. But I think it will have the biggest impact on the student body,” Muller said.
However, not all students were able to see this program firsthand. Sophomore Katerina Morales explains how even though she thought this event was still effective, some factors seemed a little unnecessary, in her opinion.
“I don’t think they had to do the heartbeats over the intercom. I thought that was kind of unnecessary. I understand why they did it, they did it because they needed to scare people into like, this is a real possibility. But the people that needed to be scared by it were the ones that were making jokes about it. So it was kind of contradicting a little bit,” Morales said.
In addition, Morales also disagreed with the exclusion of the freshmen and sophomores at this event.
“I think the freshman and sophomores should’ve seen it, or at least the sophomores, because some of us can drive now. But I understand why they mainly had seniors and juniors, especially since it’s around prom, because they’re going to be the ones making those decisions,” Morales said.
However, unlike Morales, junior Destiny Carillo was one of many students to actually be able to see this ‘accident’ unfold, and was actually surprised at how emotional she became.
“I knew it was fake, but I knew that the concept was real. As I was watching it, it felt so real and I was actually crying because I recognized a lot of the people, since they were my classmates, and I think that’s why it impacted me so much. I think it was serious enough, and I know a lot of my friends also got emotional,” Carillo said.
Regardless of the emotions brought on by this event, some students were still left wondering why people continue to drink and drive, despite all of the consequences.
“Because the teenage mindset is that we are invincible and we never think bad things will happen to us. We hear about it on the news but no one ever thinks it can happen to them. But it was definitely an eye opener and I will never drive distracted,” Carillo said.