Students convey silent message
By Kris Stadalsky Correspondent November 9, 2012 4:20PM
SADD students and a grim reaper (Phil Harding) smile for hte camera but the Day of Silence was a serious event. SUBMITTED PHOTO
Updated: December 13, 2012 10:14AM
Minooka High School SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) students played a prank of sorts on their fellow classmates right before Halloween. But the prank had a serious message.
On Oct. 24, the group organized a “Day of Silence” in memory of victims of drunken-driving incidents.
Every 52 minutes for the entire day a Death Knell rang out at both campuses. The timing of the bell signified the 10,228 people who died in drunken-driving crashes in 2010 — one life lost every 52 minutes.
SADD students were dressed all in black and, unbeknownst to their peers, waited during class periods for the grim reaper to appear.
Each time the death bell rang a grim reaper would quietly enter a classroom and hand a death certificate to a student. The SADD student wore the certificate all day, going about his or her business in complete silence.
It sounds a bit morose, but the event had an impact on a lot of students, said Phil Harding, MCHS health teacher and SADD sponsor. Harding portrayed one of the grim reapers, wearing a black cloak and real-looking skeleton mask.
Because the rest of the students weren’t in on the plan, some got a bit freaked out, especially at south campus, Harding said. Some kids even teared up when the grim reaper entered the room, not knowing who was going to be “chosen” next.
“We had some screams,” Harding said. “You would be surprised, these kids were frightened.”
But that meant that the message was heard. It got the students talking not only about the event, but the seriousness of driving while intoxicated in any way.
“We wanted that (element) of surprise,” Harding said. “This can happen to you or anyone you know at anytime.”
According to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), drunken driving will impact one in three people during their lives.
Drunken driving not only affects those in crashes, but family members, friends, classmates and co-workers as well, according to MADD. Those who have not been directly touched by drunken-driving accidents pay the price tag of $132 billion annually.
In Illinois alone, 289 fatalities were documented over the past year and 1,847 in the past five years. Of the drunken-driving arrests made in the last year, 49,527 people were three-time repeat offenders and 5,659 were five-time repeat offenders.
Illinoisans paid $1.54 billion in the last year to subsidize drunken-driving costs of medical and legal bills and $9.6 billion over the last five years.
So the idea of the grim reaper and the students’ “deaths” were meant to have an impact, and they did.
“I think that was much more effective,” Harding said. “It’s such a powerful message in a way that didn’t disrupt the classes.”
At the end of the school day, an announcement was read over the public address system explaining what took place. Part of the message was this:
“Some of your classmates wore death certificates to represent the loss that family and friends feel when a loved one is killed in one of these accidents. Don’t become an empty seat in the classroom. Don’t drink and drive.”
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