— By DAVID MAY
BROCK – For about two hours Thursday morning, hundreds of Brock ISD students received a lesson in harsh reality.
They listened to tragic stories, received the statistics and saw graphic images displayed on a large screen inside a darkened and somber high school gym that had many wiping away tears.
The event was a “Shattered Dreams” presentation to the district’s eighth through 12th graders. It actually began with the school day’s first bell as every 15 minutes a student was pulled from a classroom by the grim reaper, symbolizing a person killed by drunk or distracted driving. Those students wore black with their faces painted ghostly white, carrying white crosses as they were led into the gym.
This past Saturday, a group of students, parents, area firemen and EMS personnel including Air Evac Lifeteam and Department of Public Safety personnel, acted out on video a grisly two-vehicle wreck. The students were depicted as out partying and drinking. Talking, listening to music and texting on their phones while driving, their car slammed into another vehicle.
The video showed the injured students inside their wrecked car, and one student who was dead, played by BHS senior Abbey Drillette. Her coffin was placed in the gym. The driver in the video, Brock senior Jack Palmer, was led teary-eyed and handcuffed into the gym by DPS Senior Trooper Earl “Dub” Gillum and placed on a stool in front of the coffin.
Emotions in the gym peaked as Abbey’s mother, Amy, read a eulogy for her lost daughter. Abbey sat nearby holding a cross, tears streaming down her face as her mother struggled to read aloud her written words. Jack also wept as he imagined how real it could all be, thankful in the end that it wasn’t.
He said he hopes Thursday’s event and the emotions he and others involved in the program felt serves as a “wake up call” for his schoolmates and the younger students in attendance.
“All the emotions didn’t hit me until about 10 minutes ago,” Jack said through tear-stained eyes afterward. “I hope because of this the people in the audience paid attention and took it seriously.”
Part of the video drama included showing Trooper Gillum having to go the the Drillette’s home to notify them of their daughter’s “death.”
Father Scott Drillette said taking part in the video was difficult for he and his family, but said he hopes it was worthwhile. He said knowing that what is taking place it is not real, it is still hard not to imagine the feelings a parent has in imagining such a scenario.
“The emotions you experience are real,” he said. “No parent wants to have to live out the death of one of their children.”
The impact of drunk driving still hits close to home for many in the Brock community. Little more than 13 years ago – on Dec. 19, 1998 – Brock high school students Staci Lee, Whitney Welch, Mandi McWhorter and Lacey Osina were killed on Ranger Highway when the vehicle they were in was struck by the vehicle of a drunk driver. Ricky Carter remains in jail.
The girls’ death was devastating to their families and friends, changing their lives in many ways.
Former Brock High School principal Jimmy Branch, striving to choke down his own emotions, recalled to the audience, many of them weeping, going to the wreck scene and helping identify the young victims.
“I walked up to the car and looked in the driver’s seat and I saw a white sheet,” Branch said. “I knew what the sheet meant but I couldn’t comprehend it. I looked in the back seat, and I saw another sheet.”
Branch said the program is appropriately titled “Shattered Dreams.”
“Four girls lost their lives. It is shattered dreams,” he said. “Everything stops that day. For me it is like a life sentence.”
While the program’s aim is to keep teens from driving while drunk or being distracted, Branch noted in this case the girls were doing nothing wrong. It was the other driver who was driving drunk.
Keller resident Jason Dush, a speaker in the “Shattered Dreams” program who works as a firefighter/paramedic for the Arlington Fire Department and as a CareFlite medic, flashed graphic images from wreck scenes, hospital emergency rooms and morgues in which he was involved or present.
He relayed a story of being called to one fatal wreck call in 1995 to find the victim lying dead in the road was his girlfriend, with whom a couple of hours earlier he had an argument with over the phone. His last words to her were not pleasant.
“It will always be a story to share,” Dush said. “I am here to tell you we take life for granted.”
He urged the students to be accountable and stressed that alcohol involves impaired judgment and poor decisions beyond getting behind a wheel.
“Do you have what it takes?” he asked the students. “Do you have a purpose? Because this is mine.”
He urged the students to “love yourself and you have to love and cherish those people who love you.”