No, Those Aren’t Tears In My Eyes. I Just Have Allergies.
As a journalist, I’m supposed to remain somewhat removed from the stories I cover. I generally don’t have a problem with that. I’m more likely to be moved to tears by boredom (*cough* summer budget hearings *cough*) than for any sentimental reason. This week, though, I was caught off guard covering the Every 15 Minutes program at McCutcheon High School. The idea is to give students as realistic a view as possible of the often deadly effects of drunk and distracted driving without anyone actually getting hurt. I made plans to accompany the Grim Reaper around the school as he pulled students from class. The sight of 6′ 5″ West Lafayette Police Sgt. Kevin Flynn in a hooded black cloak and carrying a scythe initially was as silly as it sounds. But as he led a student out of class and onto a stretcher in the hallyway and another officer entered the room to read that student’s obituary, I felt a catch in my throat. What the heck? Get it together, Malavenda!
Looking around the room, I couldn’t help but think of my own high schoolers. I have a freshmen and a sophomore at Harrison High School. These kids looked just like mine and their friends. I know these things happen every day. I guess it just hit home. The thought of losing any of the kids in my life, well, it’s almost too much to think about even on a mock basis. And seeing the faces of the “dead” students’ parents the following day (those students had spent the afternoon and evening, cell phone and laptop-free, at a retreat), I knew the experience felt more real than mock to many of them.
The Every 15 Minutes program rotates between McCutcheon and Harrison, so next year my wackos (as I lovingly call my children) will be participating. I have no idea if these types of experiences can have a lasting impact on the decisions they and their friends will make. But if they feel a fraction of the emotion I felt just as an observer, it will hopefully make them think twice before making a decision that could change their lives in an instant.