For the first time in history, Brewer High School juniors and seniors had the opportunity to participate in the full-scale Shattered Dreams program on April 20 and 21. Shattered Dreams includes the reenactment of a fatal, drunk driving scene in which students, parents, local law enforcement and emergency responders portray the events that lead up to a drunk driving accident and the ramifications that occur.
The program is designed to teach students the dangers of drunk driving and texting and driving and/or distracted driving and how one decision can shatter the dreams of not only that individual but the others around them.
Approximately 800 students watched the events unfold in the school parking lot. From the staged crash scene, to the first responders who worked to save the lives of the injured students to the pronouncement of death by the Medical Examiner’s Office, the students said the scene was eerily real.
“I was lying there wondering what everyone was thinking and seeing,” said Jaelyn Herod, a junior, who died at the scene after being thrown through the windshield.
“We're all young, and our mindset is that it won't ever happen to us,” he said. “I pray it helps them realize what drinking and driving can do to you and those around you.”
Senior Kinley Ganninger watched three of her friends fight for their lives at the wreck scene. “You feel absolutely helpless knowing there's nothing you can do.”
The students who participated in the dramatization reiterated how they hoped their peers would see how one person's bad decision can impact many lives.
Senior Parker Bagg said, “It doesn't matter who you are or when, it could happen. Your life could be great but if someone else gets on the road drunk, your life could be over.”
The 40-plus students who participated in the reenactment toured the White Settlement jail that evening, but Deems Manandhar, who played the drunk driver, was actually cuffed and taken to jail earlier in the day during the shooting of the video.
“Jail … it was scary and it makes you feel awful to be in their [a criminal’s] environment,” said Manandhar, a junior. “It will definitely make me think twice before doing anything dumb,” he said.
“I felt what it was like to actually kill someone,” he said. “I knew it was fake, but it made me feel terrible.”
The students’ parents were asked to write a letter to their child as well as an obituary. The students read the letters from their parents during an overnight stay at Splash Dayz White Settlement.
Shelly Blassingame’s daughter, Makenna, was airflighted from the scene. “You never think about where you would hold your child's funeral or where you'd bury her at the age of 18,” she said. “If we can help just one child, it's all worth it.”
After the crash scene was filmed, the Grim Reaper pulled a student out of class every 15 minutes that afternoon, and a police officer read the student's obituary to his/her class.
“It was scary,” said Sophomore Adam Duncan said. “You hear the heartbeat go off and the flatline. You didn't know if he was coming for you. It was almost unexpected.”
Former CareFlite pilot Jason Dush shared the stories and graphic images of people who had been injured or killed as a result of alcohol impairment or texting while driving with those students as well as during an assembly the next day. He stressed to students the importance of making the right choices and knowing their purpose. “Is it gonna take a real death in your school to wake you up?” he asked.
Shattered Dreams was a school-wide effort. Bridget Caston, a senior who was paralyzed in the wreck, said, “It was really cool to see how all the student groups came together … Student Council, Theatre, Audio/Visual and so many others. Watching the video was an icing on the cake.”
Her mom, Paula Caston, said every student needs an adult in their lives with whom they can freely share. She encouraged parents to be brave and proactive. “Go to your kids now!” she said. “Don’t wait for them to come to you. Tell them they are loved immensely, and no matter what and that they can approach you with any questions … any time … and without fear.
Shattered Dreams was a community-wide effort that involved the volunteer efforts and support of White Settlement ISD and the Board of Trustees, the WSISD Police Department, the White Settlement Police and Fire Departments, the WSISD Education Foundation, PSI Airflight, MedStar, Citizens on Patrol, the Medical Examiner's Office, Alliance Hospital, the City of White Settlement and many other companies/agencies.