Making it stick ?

Students lay scattered on the football field at Central Kitsap High School Tuesday, appearing to be covered in blood and grotesque injuries. A pair of sedans appeared smashed up in a wreck, one resting on the hood of the other.

Screams pierced the air.

Sirens wailed louder and louder as they approached the scene.

It was all pretty grisly looking, but at the end of CKHS’s mock crash scenario, everyone got up, dusted themselves off and went about their lives.

It was a happy ending to a gut-wrenching scene that’s presented annually as a deterrent to teenaged drunk driving that sometimes occurs around prom season.

“It helps us kind of get excited, but keep the focus on the end of the year and getting to graduation,” CKHS activities director and ASB coordinator Diane Winger said of the mock crash.

The crash is lumped in with the school’s Senior Honors Week events, which all lead up to senior prom, taking place later tonight.

The crash is a bona fide production that involves coordination between the school, local law enforcement and rescue squads, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and more. It’s a big task, but it’s one that educators and rescue workers find worthy.

Judging by reactions Tuesday, it’s a lesson that may actually stick with some students.

For the student actors involved in the crash, it’s a process that requires them to believe that they themselves are in a true life-or-death scenario.

Bringing the dead to life

Tuesday’s mock crash took place at 10 a.m.; the actors involved were prepping at eight for the big show.

On the CKHS theatre stage, behind closed curtains, the small group of students met up with drama teacher Debbie Rice, former student and make-up artist Josh Diamond, mock crash coordinator Janice McFarland and a few others.

Rice and Diamond globbed wax onto students to create the appearance of horrible car accident wounds, caked them with make-up to create bruises and topped everything off with zombie movie quantities of fake blood.

“I hope you’re wearing something you don’t care is ruined because the stage blood stains,” Rice said.

The mood was jovial, with students joking about head wounds and messed up hairdos.

Rice delved into the debate over whether it was OK for students to drop the F-bomb.

“I would use the F-word quite frequently, but you’ve probably been told not to,” she said.

“It’ll probably slip out,” senior Glen Hewey said.

The students weren’t given any instructions on what or what not to say. No one encouraged anyone to scream obscenities, but painting a realistic scene calls for realistic dialogue.

As one student put it: “We all play sports, so we say it quite a lot.”

Pre-game pep talk

By the time everyone had been sufficiently bruised and bloodied, the walk up to the football field — the scene of the crash — was imminent. Before that, though, Diamond offered the actors an impromptu pep talk that silenced the jokes and giggles and set the tone for what was to come.

“This, as of right now, while we’re standing here, it’s not real,” Diamond said to his suddenly rapt audience. “Once those tarps come off, it’s just ... I still get chills.”

Diamond has become a staple of CKHS’s mock crash. He participated in the crash his senior year and later dealt with the reality of the DUI crash fatality of his friend and classmate Heather Meadows.

Meadows was killed in 2005 by a drunk driver who struck her head-on after driving onto I-5 in the wrong direction.

Diamond reminded the students of why they were performing the crash.

“If you guys have drank before, after this, you’ll second guess it,” he said. “And if you haven’t, you’ll tell your friends to (second guess it).

“You guys will say, ‘Hey, why don’t you spend the night?’ That one little phrase, that’ll save Heather Meadows.”

The scene

By the time CKHS’s senior class had filed into the bleachers overlooking the football field and crash site, the student actors had been set up in the cars for almost a half hour. The cars were covered by tarps, to keep the scene secret till the last minute — making it all the more jarring.

A few introductions were made at a podium near the crash site and then the production got rolling.

A recording played sounds of a party — music blasting and kids chugging beer, then the sounds of cars driving away and finally, a crash.

A 911 tape clicked on over the PA system and then, abruptly, the tarps were yanked off to reveal a scene out of a horror movie: a white sedan sat perched on top of a grey one. Students, classmates of those in the crowd, writhed, twitched and screamed for help and for each other. Everyone was painted in blood.

Hewey, a crash victim, confronted Chad Messidda, the drunk driver in the scene.

“Dude, what’s your problem?!” Hewey screamed. “What the hell?!?!”

Emergency vehicles began to arrive – three police cars, two fire trucks and aid car and later, a helicopter, which landed on the 50-yard line.

The blurring of what was real and what was fake became all too obvious as students in the crowd and spectators started to sob for their friends and family.

Everyone watched two of the students “die”: senior Will Morris sat dead in the driver’s seat of the pinned car the whole time; fellow senior Seth Parker staggered away from the wreck and fell to the ground, dying later on.

Two of his friends comforted him beforehand, as he appeared to be all right.

“You’re OK, you’re OK,” Lauren Brooks said.

“It’s all right, you’re all right, don’t move, don’t move,” Hewey assured his friend.

Parker’s injuries were made to look minor — just bruising on his face and a little blood from his nose and ears.

It was all part of the lesson to teach onlookers that things aren’t always as they seem.

“We try to make it as realistic as possible,” Rice said earlier in the day. “Some kids don’t understand that you can be in a car accident and not bleed at all and still end up dead.”

Parker was later photographed and placed in a body bag by Kitsap County coroner’s deputies.

The aftermath

If the scene painted by the student actors and emergency volunteers wasn’t real enough, those in attendance had the point driven home by Leah Meadows - the mother of deceased former CKHS student Heather.

“She was so excited about starting out on her own ... she never got to live her dream because a drunk driver killed her; not unlike the scene you see before you now,” Leah said, reading from a prepared statement. “I share this with you because I want you all to understand how horrific, tragic and close to home this is.”

Just a few dozen yards away were the crumpled remains of Heather’s 2003 white Chevy Cavalier with the words, “An innocent life taken,” written on the side.

A CD case and other knickknacks of Heather’s remained visible in the wreckage.

It was a bold statement to some students, but speculation also arose over whether everyone took away the same message.

“Honestly, I thought it was eye-opening,” senior Angleynna Trejo said. “Especially seeing people you know.”

Several students sobbed openly and consoled each other on the field, but still others simply walked away.

“I think for some people, it will stick, but other people, it won’t,” senior Evelyn Valdez said.

“I think they’ll see it as just an act or something,” senior Chris Knapp added.

Parker, after climbing out of the body bag he spent several minutes in, admitted that the mock crash had a bigger impact than he had anticipated.

“Honestly, I didn’t think it was gonna be as real as it was,” he said. “I didn’t think it was gonna have that big an effect.

“I hope (other students) never forget it, ‘cause I won’t.”

During the performance, Parker’s mother stood by in the crowd and watched Seth get zipped up into the body bag.

“It had quite an impact on me as a mom,” she said. “I’ll say: it shook me to the core.

“I hope and pray that it shocked each and every one.”

Even if it did, Leah’s story served as a reminder that even the most careful of drivers can fall victim to others.

Sheriff’s Deputy Steve Martin was optimistic that those in Tuesday’s crowd wouldn’t be that other person.

“When you’re out here and you look up in the crowd, looking at the emotions coming out of the kids, you can’t help but think they’ll carry that,” he said.

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