After each secret Every 15 Minutes meeting, I wondered how the presentation would manage to be impactful. With everyone’s busy schedules, we never had full attendance and struggled to take the meetings seriously, often joking around in the back of the room.
However, on the day of the car crash scene, I felt that energy change. As a new person “died” every 15 minutes, we’d see a familiar face walk into the room we stayed in, not to see anyone else for the next 24 hours. The program leaders took our phones, leaving us with only each other to talk to and pass time. We bonded over games and spoke to a California Highway Patrol officer, learning about his experience with distracted driving accidents.
Later in the day, we all wrote a letter to a loved one about our experience and what we learned. While I didn’t technically “die” in the program, I wrote a letter to my parents talking about what I learned from being on the sidelines: life is precious and the decisions we make have the ability to help or hurt others.
We all took turns sharing our letters, what we learned, and why we chose to participate in the program. It was at this point that we all truly felt the magnitude of the program. Almost everyone was in tears by the time the last person shared, and we learned how alcohol, drugs, and distracted driving has affected each other in different ways. Instead of joking around, we listened to each other and processed our heavy emotions.
During the funerals, I surprised myself by shedding a few tears. After forming friendships with the other participants in the program, I could tell how the program had changed their outlook on drunk driving. What struck me the most was our guest speaker who was a survivor of a drunk driving collision. Hearing and seeing how much she lost because of one person’s decision to drink and drive taught us a powerful lesson.
I was proud to see that despite my initial skepticism, we made an impact on students who were watching the assembly. When we looked into the crowd, we saw teary eyes and knew that our message reached them. In our efforts to discourage distracted driving and driving under the influence, I learned how one bad decision can cost lives.