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Every 15 Minutes Impacts OHS Upperclassmen

Student Body Silenced

Every 15 Minutes Impacts OHS Upperclassmen

First Responders were on scene at the Oakdale High School soccer field last Wednesday, in response to a crash scene re-enactment for the Every 15 Minutes program. Senior, Noah Rodrigues acted as driver/victim of the stricken car. He was pronounced dead on arrival as crews worked at extricating his two passengers. Cars used for the project were donated by Haidlen Ford.


POSTED April 19, 2017 7:51 a.m.
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By TERESA HAMMOND

thammond@oakdaleleader.com

It is a rare and unique opportunity that one has, to experience what life might be like without a loved one.

There is nothing easy about losing a child. A life short lived, taken suddenly by tragedy. Innocent lives lost.

This past week, however, 21 families learned what such loss would feel like, as did their children. Three of the 21 ‘fatalities’ came at the hands of one. In turn his family equally learned how one bad choice can impact many.

Fortunately for the victims as well as the accused and the two who survived the crash scene, this wasn’t real. For the 24 hours from incident to funeral, however, it felt all too real.

Last week Oakdale High School students and families were reminded of the serious consequence behind drinking and driving by way of the Every 15 Minutes Program.

Every 15 minutes is an on campus event designed to dramatically grab the attention of students with the potential consequences of drinking and driving. A crash scene is staged and then revealed to the upperclassmen as their chosen classmates play out the scene live.

While the severity of the crash, the hustle of the first responders, classmates bloodied and helpless is geared at gaining the attention of the students, it was the funeral the next day which seemed most impactful.

“It’s the parents,” OHS Vice Principal Shannon Kettering said of the event’s success and impact on the 750 students who attend. “Their willingness to bear all for these kids is what kids hear. They see the impact of their loss.

“Every parent has a story behind them,” she continued, “and they were absolutely willing to do this both because their kids really wanted to be part of this but more because they want to change the perception of having one or two (drinks) and then getting behind the wheel is ‘okay.’ They want to help these kids and are willing to bare their soul to do it.”

One such set of parents would be Tad and Tiffany Neave whose son Austin was chosen as a walking dead participant.

Introduced to the student body by CHP Officer Tim Olsen, the couple approached the podium, a closed casket in front of them and flowers behind them.

“I don’t even know where to begin,” the OHS senior’s mother said, as she read her letter to her son at the funeral service. “My life will never be complete without you.”

Speaking with an emotion-filled voice, Mrs. Neave recounted all the joys her son brought to their family, as well as friends and the world.

“Although I will not understand this side of Heaven, why God allowed you to be taken from our family so soon,” she stated, “I am so thankful that he chose me to be your mom.”

Tad Neave, a seasoned firefighter, offered a deeper personal and professional connection to what it meant to be placed in the position of grieving parent.

“This was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,” Mr. Neave shared with funeral attendees.

“I’ve seen this a lot of times,” he continued, regarding the scene and fatalities. “We have a switch we kind of hit to do the job that has to be done. Leaving that switch off, making it personal was a lot harder than I thought.”

In a similar fashion to wife Tiffany, Tad shared touching moments he would now miss with his son. Life moments he had looked forward to fondly.

“You had a capacity to feel that surpassed my own,” he said of his son. “I never got to tell you this.”

OHS senior Annaliese Davies offered her own personal words, while reading a letter to her Mimi as a member of the walking dead.

“I wish I didn’t have to die,” she said, choking back tears. “I had so many plans. I wish this person didn’t take my life away from me. I wish someone would have stopped them or taken their keys and maybe I’d still be alive today.”

For the student not touched or reached by the crash scene, or emotional testimonies given by family and victims, there was guest speaker Jodi Biers.

Biers addressed the audience sharing the story of a friend. A friend described by the speaker as a ‘daddy’s girl,’ who would eventually make her way to a career in fire service.

A friend who one night following her work shift, went to celebrate the life of a Battalion Chief with her crew. Knowing the night would include drinking, the friend intended to take a cab home afterward.

“She left the bar in a blackout, appearing to still be normally functioning,” Biers stated.

Two things were then revealed to the students, the first being the result of the blackout ended the life on another driver, the second revealing Biers’ true identity. She was not only the ‘friend’ she had been speaking of, but she was now an inmate as a result of that crash.

“It’s crazy to think just a month before I was talking to young folks just like you guys,” she said, sharing that she would speak with upcoming cadets about being a good leader and making good choices. “I remember the thud of the impact and the sound of the crushing glass. I saw the look of terror on her face.”

The inmate/former firefighter recalled how one bad decision changed her life. How she now uses the lesson to try and prevent others from making a similar mistake. A life lost forever.

 

“I’m serving a sentence behind my choice to drink and drive,” she said. “Make good choices. Be brave and be strong.”

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