Richard Liang of Maria Carrillo High School

By RICHARD LIANG
MARIA CARILLO HIGH SCHOOL, JUNIOR, 16

Because many people my age are just now being given the privilege and responsibility of driving, my high school, Maria Carrillo High School, hosted the Every 15 Minutes program last month. I clearly remember going to school that day in anticipation of a lecture on the dangers of drinking and driving, dangers that had been repeated to me as many times as “Go clean your room!”
And, as we filed into the bleachers to watch the presentation, it was easy to tell that I was not alone in this thought. However, we were all quickly riveted to the scene unfolding before us because the “realistic” simulation was unlike any of the others that I had experienced before.
As a part of the simulation, a number of students, many of whom were classmates and people that I knew and had seen just the day before, were completely removed from school in order to represent the departed “deceased.” Their instantaneous disappearance from my life gave me a personal link to the potential effects of drunken driving that words and explanations never could create.
Even after all the times that I had heard that drunken driving was the leading cause of teenage deaths, I had never realized how many people the deaths would affect. These fatalities rocked not only those killed by the crashes and their families, but also all of their friends, classmates and acquaintances, not to mention the officials and personnel involved in dealing with the aftermath of the accidents.
Still, what struck me the most about the simulation was that, as genuine as it appeared, it was still just a simulation. And even the most realistic model cannot elicit responses comparable to the overwhelming horror and sadness of discovering that someone you know has died or killed another person in an auto accident.
Yet, although depressing, the truth is that every 15 minutes someone is really killed or injured in an alcohol-related incident. Just the sad, last thoughts and wishes that several of the “dead” students read were enough to envelop much of the school and other audience members in immense grief and tears, despite the fact that we all knew these students were alive. So, I cannot fathom the despair and misery of someone who has truly and forever lost someone dear.
However, for me, the most important and probably the most difficult aspect of experiencing the program was not getting caught up in just anguish, but rather implement the sorrow that I felt into my own actions as a reminder of the horrible consequences that some enticing desires can entail. Fortunately, I was able to take heart in the responses of my fellow classmates to the program, that I observed both personally and, yes, on Facebook. In fact, it was heartwarming to see the many posts in response to the Every 15 Minutes program, reflecting the vast impact of the presentation. Some people wrote messages that told about how privileged and happy they felt to be able to live, and others reflected on the pains of having lost a loved on to a car crash. Also, I was touched to find that still others even spent the time to tell how wonderful and important their friends are. In addition, these responses were not limited to the Internet, but also manifested themselves in the new magnitudes of compassion and respect between students.
These reactions have led me to believe that we will be able to remember Every 15 Minutes as more than just a tragic fact, but rather as a constant reminder to make good decisions, regardless of whether we are driving, hanging out or doing anything else. Someday our actions as teenagers may even render this statistic, as well as the accompanying pain and suffering, obsolete.