EHS Students Witness Biennial “Mock Crash”

Lily Jones and Morgan Sheehy

Sirens. Screams. Cries. Edina High School students were not prepared for the tragic scene that took place on Thursday, September 21. Tears filled students’ eyes as they witnessed the tragic fate of their fellow classmates. The audience stood silent as they watched intently and tried to fathom that this could happen to any one of them.

The scene started out with two totalled cars. Broken glass was scattered everywhere and passengers were visible in both cars. A young boy was thrown from the back window into the street, and the front seat passenger in the car full of teenagers had been tossed through the front windshield and lay motionless on the hood of the car. The teenage driver came stumbling out of his car in a blood-soaked tuxedo, holding a beer bottle in hand. He paced around the scene distressed, but clearly confused and intoxicated. The other driver, a middle aged man, rushed to the unconscious boy on the ground, screaming and choking back sobs. After a few long minutes, police and fire departments arrived on the scene and proceeded to take the injured passengers into the ambulance. One female passenger continuously yelled at the drunk driver, “Jack, this is all your fault.” White sheets were carefully placed over the deceased. The scene ended with the arrest of the drunk driver and a hearse taking away the bodies.

While the emotions this event sparked were very real for the audience members, the event was simply a dramatization of a crash. This event, called a “mock crash,” is routinely performed at high schools around the nation to raise awareness of the reality of fatal car crashes, especially in accidents that deal with distracted and intoxicated driving. The dramatization was orchestrated by Edina Thespians and volunteer students throughout EHS, with the help of the Edina police and fire departments. The event consisted of the mock crash and two guest speakers, one a former police chief and one sharing a personal story about a drunk driving crash. This dramatization was not far from reality. “Unfortunately this is stuff that we deal with, in terms of bad crashes and people that have been injured,” an officer on the scene said. Junior Ella Dolynchuk, one of the student coordinators of the mock crash, helped to make it appear as realistic as possible. “It was hard to watch all the actors lie there for about half an hour,” she said referring to her peers who had to play dead, with gruesome special effects makeup and tarnished clothes. “I hope students realize to stay safe, whether that’s texting and driving or drinking and driving” Dolynchuk said.

Natalie Bartolomei, a junior at EHS and another one of the mock crashes’ student directors could not help but get choked up while watching the scene. “I just got my driver’s license the morning prior to this performance, and I have always been terrified of car crashes,” Bartolomei said. “Even though I helped set up and knew what was going to happen, I watched the mock crash for the first time with the rest of the student body and was moved. It hit very close to home as I knew all of the actors in the scene.” Bartolomei described the long nights the actors and police department put in to make sure the mock crash went off without a hitch. A once in a lifetime opportunity for legal destruction of property was also necessary for the success of the scene. “The cars weren’t damaged enough so we got to throw stage weights at them, jump on top of them and smash the windshields.”

Jack Ford, a senior at EHS, played the “drunk driver” in the scene. Ford has been a part of a few theatrical productions, dating all the way back to his middle school days. However, he had never actually acted in a production, having previously been part of the stage crew or pit orchestra. “This was a whole new experience for me to be in the full spotlight.” Ford said. “I was extremely nervous, but I was there to make a difference, and all I had to do was be myself, but drunk, of course. I just went for it and did what I felt was good in the moment.” Although Ford has always taken driving under the influence seriously, playing his character in front of the whole school and witnessing the effect he had on the hundreds of students that watched truly opened up his eyes and his heart. “What everyone saw today is something that happens everyday, maybe not as severe, maybe more severe. I want students to just be aware of what can happen and what the consequences of your actions can be.” Ford’s performance touched many students due to his ability to allow each and every person to picture themselves in his character’s shoes. His character’s one mistake killed two people, severely injured four, and brought a promising kid’s future to a decade behind bars and a life full of crippling regret.

After the performance had finished, the students grappled with what they had just witnessed. “It hit me really hard knowing that people might drink and drive during homecoming,” junior Maeda Mohamud said. She stood with a group of friends to discuss the emotional scene, “The fact that this still happens…it’s really sad,” Mohamud said. “This made me really think about the dangers of driving and the importance of being aware of your surroundings,” junior Arnelle Tonye Mbog said.

EHS students got a chance to share the same thought of what it would be like to lose a loved one in a drunk or distracted driving accident and come to terms with the severe consequences. Along with the crash, the words of the guest speaker who lost her fiance due to a drunk driver had a strong impact on the audience, as well as the words of a former police chief who has had far too many real-life experiences with this type of tragedy. Hopefully the mock crash will inspire students to be the person to stand up and take away the keys from a drunk peer.