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Sobering presentation for high school seniors
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Ambulance and medics prepare an injured crash victim for ambulance transport to an area hospital. - photo by GLENN KAHL
The scene was real – bringing back a lot of serious memories – when Manteca’s high school seniors gathered on a football field grandstand on Tuesday to witness the tragedy that comes from drinking and driving.

It was one of many life and death presentations that I have covered over the years that attempts to serve up a plate of grim reality to the nearly 2,000 students about to graduate from high school.

As in years past,  there was an unbelievable amount of work done behind the scenes that made it all possible – preparations that stretched over the entire year involving police, fire and ambulance personnel as well as educators in the community.  They all put their best foot forward hoping it may save the life of at least one teenager.

The school resource officers and the ambulance personnel went above and beyond what was expected of them.

The common denominator that runs like a thread between all those professional emergency responders in their collective passion is to keep those students – like those who witnessed the event from the  stands at Guss Schmiedt Field – from becoming statistics.

While covering the multi-injury crash scene from the high school track, I could only wonder how many of the students could actually comprehend the depth of the presentation.  The three-day scenario spells it all out pretty clearly.  

The day of the mock funerals always brings tears to the eyes of parents and students alike.  At that final point of the Every 15 Minutes effort,  the mood takes on a surreal state depicting life and death – with many “what ifs” it wasn’t just a staged presentation.  What if that son or daughter or friend were really in those caskets in the church setting as a result of a drunken  driver – what if?

Manteca Police Sergeant Chris Mraz was exceptional in his narration of the tragic accident scene Tuesday morning.  He explained to the students that what seemed like a slow response of the medics, fire and ambulance personnel was not delayed for a more dramatic presentation – it was real –where minutes of waiting  actually seem like hours.

The student victims, the drunk driver Cynthia Perez, and the emergency personnel acted their parts quite well.  Missing from the stands were many parents who should have been able to witness the realism of the event with the thought of a Sheriff’s deputy from the coroner’s office knocking at their door notifying them of a fatal accident involving a son or daughter.  It’s a rather macabre notion, but a possibility that occurs every day in the nation.

While there was some laughter in the crowd at the start of the program,  the mood became more sober as the presentation moved forward.  Still trying to remember back when I was 17 or 18 years old  it is obvious to me that it has to be a difficult reach for the message to really sink in teens’ heads.  We are all guilty of the thought pattern, “it will never happen to me.”

Master of ceremonies Chris Mraz had more than genuine interest in the day’s event than might be realized.  His son Luke, an East Union senior, was sitting there in the stands listening to his dad talk of the serious dangers of drinking behind the wheel.    Without hesitation a proud Sgt. Mraz openly congratulated his son on his upcoming graduation.