Local high school students bring tragedy to life
Northborough/Southborough - Every 15 minutes March 11, a bell rang at Algonquin Regional High School (ARHS), a student left the class and a police office r entere d the class to announce the "death" of that student in an alcoholrelated crash. For the rest of the day, those students' desks were marked by black cloth and flowers.
The program, including an all-school assembly, was a National Honor Society (NHS) and Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD) project, part of a national program called Every 15 Minutes.
"[The program] aims to educate students about the consequences of drunk driving, in hopes of preventing impaired driving tragedies and saving lives," said Katie Campbell, NHS president and event organizer. "The name stems from the fact that every 15 minutes, someone is killed in an alcoholrelated car accident."
ARHS knows the damage such an accident can bring. In 2006, two sisters, Shauna and Meghan Murphy, were killed in an alcohol-related car accident.
"As seniors, we're the last class [that was here] when the accident happened," NHS member Molly Wraight said. "We wanted to relay this message to the younger classes."
The girls' parents, Chris and Michelle Murphy, have been supportive of the event, donating the cost of the shirts the participants wore, although they couldn't attend, Campbell said.
The "victims" kept their participation a secret until it was time for them to disappear. Classmates' reactions varied, but many were stunned, freshman Kristen Crowley said.
"A lot of people yelled my name, and a lot of people were shocked," she said.
"It got really quiet," when students' deaths were announced, Campbell said.
At the assembly, Jim Butcher spoke about his daughter who died at 19 in an accident caused by excessive speed. The young man driving the car still had a junior license, and shouldn't have been driving with his friends, he said, and certainly not at 80 mph. Four of the five people in the car died, and the eff ects have not gone away after nearly two years, he said; the families of all those in the accident still suff er.
"Because he was showing off , my daughter is dead," Butcher said. "You don't know who you aff ect. You don't know what the backlash is going to be."
To illustrate that further, the "victims" wrote letters to their survivors, and a few read them to the assembled students.
"When you have 1,400 kids in a gym and you can hear a pin drop, it's pretty impressive," Principal Ned Gallagher said.
In 11 years at ARHS, Gallagher said, the school has lost seven students. Two years ago, students presented the first Every 15 Minutes event.
Campbell, a senior, thought it was worth repeating.
"This program aims to have an emotional impact on everyone involved," she said. "We hope that it will ultimately lead to at least one student that chooses to make a better decision that could save their life."
Sgt. Brian Griffi n o f the Northborough Police Department told the assembled students about the legal consequences of drunk driving. He said he has had to identify three ARHS students while they were still in wrecked cars, and the images will be with him forever, he said. His advice to the students was direct.
"Please take care of yourself first. Do the right thing," he said. "Take care of yourself and then take care of your friends … We don't want to go to another funeral."
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