The scene was somber on Foothill Road in front of the high school Tuesday as juniors and seniors gathered to witness the enactment of the aftermath of a fatal accident caused by a teen drunken driver.
Police, firefighters and paramedics were involved in the exercise, dubbed "Every 15 Minutes" for the frequency at which a person is killed in an alcohol- or drug-related accident in the United States.
Foothill High students, and some parents, first saw a video that showed two groups of teens. One was partying; the kids scattered when the police arrived, getting into their car although some were obviously under the influence. The other group was at a sporting event at the high school. A woman who works in the school office ran after that car to give one boy his wallet.
The video ended with a sickening crash. The viewers then filed outside to Foothill Road to see the aftermath of the accident.
Two smashed cars were at the scene with injured bodies visible and the school office woman on the ground, bloodied and lying still. When police arrive they reported two fatalities, including the pedestrian, and two critically injured. Firefighters had to cut away a car door to reach one young man.
Also on site were the teen who reported the accident and the drunken driver, who was taken away in handcuffs after botching a field sobriety test.
"I think this had a profound and powerful impact on the kids," said Principal John Dwyer as the scene was being cleared. "This is a very impressionable time for teenagers, and this time of year they make difficult decisions. It's important to talk about these issues up front."
Dwyer announced that counselors would be on hand for anyone who needed to talk after the upsetting simulation. Many students were visibly upset as they witnessed their classmates lying bloodied in the crash.
Seniors Lauren Traurig and Rachel Usedom coordinated the effort, choosing the actors from among the clubs on campus.
"I think the way our actors were trained made it seem really real," said Traurig. "I was talking to friends afterward who said they couldn't believe things were portrayed so real."
Some students are designated as "the living dead." They dress in black with ghoulish makeup. Tomorrow at school, one of them will be removed from classes every 15 minutes.
The injured partied were really brought to Eden Medical Center, and the "dead" bodies were brought to the morgue, where their parents had to identify them, said Traurig.
"It's a big community effort," she noted. "I think it really hits the parents as well. Sometimes they don't even know what's going on in their children's lives."