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Every 15 Minutes…

Today I participated for the first time in the Every 15 Minutes program – a simulation event to raise awareness of the fact that a person dies in an alcohol related accident every 15 minutes.

The day began at the local high school.  A “Grim Reaper” went into classrooms and brought out a student every 15 minutes throughout the morning.  After a student was removed from class, their obituary was read by a law enforcement officer and posted in the classroom.  The student became one of the “Living Dead” and was not allowed to speak or interact with others for the rest of the school day.  Uniformed officers and local ministers made death notifications during the morning, informing parents at their homes or workplaces of the death of their child.

After lunch the student body assembled outside to witness an accident scene.  Two crashed vehicles carrying five bleeding, injured students made for a very grim picture.  One of the students was the drunk driver, and another was taken to the hospital by ambulance – and later died there.  One of the students was taken by helicopter to a larger hospital, and the other two were declared dead at the scene by the local coroner.  The bodies of those students were put into bags, and the parents were brought in to identify their children.

As a parent and a pastor, it was an emotional day.  I made death notifications and it was interesting to watch the reactions of parents.  Even though they knew it was a simulation – participating parents and students go through an extensive training during the weeks leading up to the event – many were still overwhelmed when “the word” came.  One parent said, “When you see a pastor and a state trooper at your door, the dread begins to build, it’s uncontrollable.”

I also assisted one of the couples who had to identify their dead child at the accident scene.  The image of a mother holding and kissing a child who is lying in a body bag is not one I will soon forget.

I managed to keep it together through the day – the pastors and officers had some down time to shoot the breeze and we were fed well.  But on the drive from the high school to my office, I, quite frankly, lost it.  I was sobbing by the time I got to my office, and struggled to describe my day over the phone to my wife.  I simulated things today as a pastor that I hope I never have to do in “real life.”  As a parent, I heard words and spoke words to others that I pray I never have to hear about one of my own.

I will hug my boys tightly tonight, and thank God for their lives and their faith in Him.

Tomorrow there will be a convocation, the “dead” and their parents will speak about their experience.  I’m so appreciative of the law enforcement officers, fire, ambulance, and rescue personnel, the high school teachers and administrators, and the pastors who invested their time in this outstanding program.

  1. April 22, 2008 at 8:29 pm

    Wow, Scott. I’d not heard of this program, but it does sound like it would be very effective and stirring. Thanks for posting about it.

    April 23, 2008 at 6:12 am

    Well you have finally succeeded! You’re known for making my wife cry, on a weekly basis I might add, over your touching message led by God …….but you had me tearing up imagining myself in the shoes of the’parents’. Somethings you would rather not think about. I hope I never have to experience it!

  3. Chris Ebert
    April 23, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    That’s powerful stuff. I think it belongs in the Carroll County Comet. I’ve been in Flora a long time and I was aware of the program but your comments have given me a new perspective. The community should be aware of the impact this had on you personally so that they might better understand the positive impact it will have on their children.
    At the very least, the people who invested their time should (publicly) recieve the credit that you gave them.

  4. Diana Brown
    April 24, 2008 at 10:08 am

    I was a parent involved in the every 15 minute program. My step-son was the “drunk driver”. I truly thought I was prepared for what this program had to offer, but I was wrong. My emotions have been a roller coaster the past couple of days. My husband and I had to wait to see him at the crash scene that day. We were not notified, because he had not died. After he had been taken away, we had to wait for a phone call from him from the jail telling us to meet him in the court room. The wait seemed like an eternity. We were able to see him before the hearing in a private room, but it was something that I never want to have to do again. Watching him listen to testimony from the parents of children who had died was about more than a parent can stand to see their child go through. After the hearing, we all left to write letters to our children telling them things that we had never told them and wanted them to know. Needless to say our evening wasn’t easy. I’m sure all around the county parents were crying as they wrote letters to their children. During the convocation, our son, my step-son, gave a testimony to his experiences during this situation. I was truly moved. Words can’t express how proud I was of him at that moment! He also had written a special poem and read it to the audience. I believe that he had a huge impact on the student body yesterday. This was truly God’s work!

    Well, back to a regular day of teaching and boy am I happy for that! I’m drained and my eyes are swollen and itchy, but I will live! Hug your kids and tell them that you love them everyday! After you spoke at the convocation and I realized you had a blog, I attempted to find it. I wanted to thank you along with every other pastor and chaplain that helped our children!

  5. fiercegrace
    April 24, 2008 at 11:24 am


    Thanks so much for sharing your experience as a parent in the Every 15 Minutes program. I’m sure your step-son was impacted by his involvement.

    Thanks also for the great job you do as a teacher in our system!

  6. Saung Lady
    April 24, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    This sounds like a program every school system should implement, but I have to admit that I’m glad I did not have to participate-just hearing and reading about it has me all choked up. Having already lost a child to what should have been a very avoidable accident, just the thought of such a simulation is almost more than I can stand! I encourage all parents to love and cherish their children and grandchildren as well as to study, learn and apply the Word of God over their lives.

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