A dose of reality during ‘the time of your life'

| 21 Feb 2012 | 11:00

    CENTRAL VALLEY-Before Monroe-Woodbury High School students went to their prom last Friday night, they witnessed a fatal car accident in their school parking lot. The two-car crash was actually a reenactment of a prom night drunken driving spree. High school drama club actors kept most of the student body somberly riveted to the scene, complete with police, ambulance corps, fire department, a stat flight helicopter, and two men from a funeral home. "This time is one of the most joyous times of your life," said Woodbury Police Chief Bob Kwiatkowski. The chief told the seniors that they will want their prom and graduation to be memorable, but for the right reasons. "Drinking alcohol and driving has serious consequences. And those consequences can affect you the rest of your life and the lives of your loved ones." Incoming principal Aldo Filippone (starting next school year), has a personal connection to alcohol related tragedies. "My nephew, in 1999, was a passenger in a vehicle. His driver was drunk. And it killed him. He was 26 years old." "I thought that it would be good to educate other people about the seriousness of drinking and driving." So he contacted state police. "And in cooperation with the School Resource Officer Warren Decker and the Chief of Police in Woodbury, we planned the first traffic safety exercise. And we've done it every year since." Filippone said his nephew went golfing with a friend and the friend's father. The friend's father, while at the golf course, "decided to drink and get into the car, while my nephew was a passenger." And he said, "My sister hasn't been the same since." The crash site was acted out, complete with beer cans rolling around, dazed and confused accident victims, a bloodied-up girl in an ambulance screaming at a photographer to "go away." Drama Coach Stacy Hintze said the nine actors practiced for about two weeks, but added that the performance was "the culmination of years of study." Nicholas Freely, one of those drama students, afterwards said, "It's definitely emotional to see your friends laying there dead and hanging out of a car. It's really surreal." He said, "Officer Decker sat down with us and told us what to do, like with the drunk, and what police officers will do." Freely said about fellow cast member Jen McNulty, who played dead, "She had to find a place so that she's not thinking about what's going on, so she's not reacting to people talking to her." Cast member Ariel Lask, who wandered around stunned in her bloody prom dress, afterwards said about the experience, "It felt real. It was like the scariest thing I have ever done, especially when they were taking her out of the car. You just forget you're pretending." But for Monroe Volunteer Ambulance Corps member Donna Minicucci, the drama was not unlike many she's seen n "way too many to count. I can't tell you the number of kids that are involved in drinking and driving. It's pretty upsetting." The reenactment was, "pretty much as real as it's going to get other than being involved in it. The kids did a great job. Hopefully it made a difference." Senior Sean Halayko headed out to his car after the performance. And he remarked about the show, "I thought it was very real. And it was moving." And maybe some kids will be affected by it, he said. "The kids that are like ‘rebels' will drink and whatever, but it should impact you a little bit so you actually think about people you're graduating with, your family and everyone else." With many students in the audience appearing to be disturbed by the enactment, Officer Decker said, "We try to make it as realistic as we possibly can in hopes that most of the student body will heed the message." And for parents, Decker said, "You have to communicate with the children. You have to tell them what the consequences could be." Town of Woodbury Assistant Chief Donnie Prozzillo said about these kinds of accidents that he's seen "the real ones, plenty of times. Since we've been having this program we haven't had any fatalities on graduation night or any major accidents. I think when they see it and how real it seems, it hits home and when they go out, they're aware of the situation." Firefighters cut off the roof of a car to get a student out. And the stat flight helicopter arrived ready to try and save a life. While two men in suits from Smith, Seaman, Quackenbush Funeral Home tended to the dead girl in the prom dress, the drunk driver was still kicking and screaming in the police car, outraged at being told what to do. Those participating in the Monroe-Woodbury High School mock accident were: Moderator Chief Bob Kwiatkowski; Woodbury Police Department; Monroe Police Department; Woodbury Fire Department; Monroe Fire Department; Woodbury Ambulance Corps; Monroe Ambulance Corps; Mobile Life; Stat Flight; Smith, Seaman, Quackenbush Funeral Homes; Monroe-Woodbury High School Drama Club; School Resource Officer Warren Decker; School Safety; Custodial Staff; Incoming Principal Aldo Filippone; Director Health, Safety and Security Dept. Michael Fitzula.