Grim Reaper Visits Canyon Ridge for ‘Every 15 Minutes’ Event
TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KLIX) – All eyes were turned on the Grim Reaper when he walked into the gymnasium this afternoon at Canyon Ridge High School.
He pointed to one of the students, Jayleen Lovell. She walked to him. He placed his hand upon her head, a plastic scythe in his other hand. Police Officer Jason Mickelson read her obituary to the students. Some of them cried.
The students were told that Lovell, a senior at the high school, had died unexpectedly due to a drunk-driving accident. Afterward, Mr. Death led Lovell out of the gymnasium – her not even allowed to say goodbye to her classmates – and into another room where her face would be painted like death.
Lovell was one of a dozen students who took part in an all-day program about the dangers of drunk driving called “Every 15 Minutes” – the frequency in which someone in the country dies from a drunk-driving collision.
The event has been held for the past 18 years at Twin Falls High School, said Officer Matt Triner, and every year at Canyon Ridge since the school opened in 2009. The program teaches students about the dangers of drunk driving, and how accidental deaths caused by it affect students, friends and family.
All students participated in a number of other activities in class and out, including role-playing traffic stops with police officers.
The 12 students chosen to play the role of an accident victim, however, their faces painted to resemble the Grim Reaper, had some restrictions. They attended class and walked about the school, but they couldn’t talk to anyone except their teachers, police officers and other students playing the same role.
That was tough for Zane Stirling, one of the students who played a dead student. “I have a big group of friends,” he said, “and I like to talk.”
The event continues on Thursday. Until then, they also cannot talk to family members, including their parents, and do not have cellphones with them. They will stay at a hotel tonight, away from family and friends, and return to the school Thursday morning to take part in a skit to wrap up the two-day event. Organizers hope, however, that the impressions generated during the program will stay with the students long after it is over.
Conor Cole said it’s been weird playing a dead person, but he’s come to better understand the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. The death of a student, or anyone else, affects many people.
“It’s not just alcohol” that cause problems when driving, he said. “Drugs can have the same effect.”
Each of the 12 students had fake obituaries read when they were called from class, written by their parents.
Sarah Rasmussen said it was difficult for her parents to write her fake obituary. They knew ahead of time that she would play a part in this week’s event, Rasmussen said, but it was still something her mom didn’t enjoy writing.
“It took her about three weeks to write it,” she said.
Still, the students said they’ve learned some things from the event and believe it’s important to remind people about the dangers of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol – and to watch out for others who may be driving while influenced.
“People don’t realize how serious it is until someone is missing from your group,” she said.