Shattered Dreams


“I was weeping because Richard Parker left me so unceremoniously.  It broke my heart.” ~ Life of Pi

Every two years, our high school runs a program called Shattered Dreams. Today is the day again. I’ve been seeing the signs around town giving notice there will be a mock accident scene this morning. I attended the program in 2011 when my oldest daughter (19) was a senior at the high school. Here is a link to some information about Shattered Dreams.

Juniors, seniors, and parents assemble in the gym to begin the program. The student media center KCBY made a movie depicting high school seniors going to prom and partying, and it ends with a car crash. Then students, faculty, and parents quietly walked outside to the parking lot where a mock accident scene was enacted, crashed cars and all. EMS arrived on the scene, sirens blaring, and a helicopter landed in the parking lot. It was all very dramatic, as if it were a real accident scene. Onlookers watch while bodies are extracted from the cars. Survivors act out the scene; it’s projected on loud speakers. Some of the kid didn’t survive. They were covered in white sheets and later taken away in hearses. The others were taken from the scene via the helicopter and the ambulances.

It’s a hard-hitting simulation aimed at scaring kids out of drinking and driving during prom season. While the Shattered Dreams program lasted a few hours in the morning, other students were removed from class throughout the day in fifteen minute intervals by the grim reaper and pronounced dead. They painted their faces white, put on black t-shirts and returned to class and remained silent all day, in class and in the hallways. They serve a visual reminder of ‘what if’ that person suddenly wasn’t there anymore because of an accident. There were fake obituaries, written by pre-selected students’ parents hanging in the hallways. and read out loud. It’s like giving the students a chance to think ahead to what it would be like if suddenly a chair in class goes empty because of a student death. It’s a way to show the kids how serious the consequences are and how much those people would be missed by their loved ones and the community.  Here is a link to a slide show:

Unfortunately, this town has seen its fair share of teenage deaths, and while they haven’t all been attributed to drinking and driving, there is an epidemic of tragedy here that warrants all the effort that goes into Shattered Dreams. I have utmost respect for EMS officers who respond to the scenes of emergencies and do everything they can to save people. In just six years since we’ve lived here, our town has lost many young people:

Veronica Sheer died sixteen days after she was hit by a car crossing the street. She was fourteen years old. Now there is a fence there to keep high schoolers from crossing the street there after school. 2006

Carter Jackson died when he was eighteen years old, and his little sister was friends with my oldest daughter at the time. I took her to the funeral during our first school year here. It was heartbreaking seeing all the pictures from his life and to see his lifeless body in the coffin wearing a Hollister jacket. It didn’t seem right that someone so young was already gone. 2007


Travis Masters died instantly when his car went under an 18 wheeler. He was a nineteen year old college freshman. 2008


Cristina Coker was found hanging from the swing set at an elementary school. She was an eighteen year-old college freshman and died within a few hours of Travis. 2008


Adam Hartwick drowned when he lost control of his truck and flipped upside down in a backyard pool. He was just nineteen years old and one of my good friends. Out of all these local tragedies, he is the one person I knew and was close with. We met after I took College Algebra at the local community college in 2007. He texted me the night before his accident, and I never answered him. It was so hard to believe when I heard the news about what happened the next day. It all went by so fast, I’m still trying to get used to the idea that he is gone forever. He would be 24 now, finished with college and moving on with a career and perhaps a family. Adam was good friends with Travis and grieved his loss just a few months before his own unexpected and untimely death. He also knew Carter and was at his funeral a year earlier. He went to the Shattered Dreams program when he was in high school. Little did he know just a few years later, EMS would arrive on his accident scene, unable to save his life. 2008



Ryan Sullivan was 22 when he died/ His little sister is friends with my oldest daughter. 2009

Justin Henry died when he was nineteen years old. I met him once with a mutual friend. 2010


Corrine Peters died when her mother, our mayor, shot her (before she killed herself). She was nineteen, about to be a college freshman and was on the high school drill team with my oldest daughter. 2010


Taylor Storch died after a tragic skiing accident on spring break. She was just thirteen years old. Today, I got a “Taylor Blue” manicure to support organ donation. 2010


Keifer Smith died of mysterious causes, found in a decorative pond in his apartment complex. My oldest daughter knew him from high school. He was eighteen years old. 2011


Jacob Logan died from cliff diving at Possum Kingdom Lake. It took three days to find his body. He was a seventeen year-old football star. My oldest daughter knew him through the high school. I saw a boy at the middle school yesterday wearing Jacob’s shirt. It’s blue and it says “the hybrid, the legend, the guardian angel.” 2012




Jonah Blackwell shot himself just a few days after Jacob’s accident in a local park. He was also a high school senior. 2012



I’d like to take a moment to remember all these young people whose lives were tragically cut short. Unfortunate accidents and events shattered their dreams in an instant. May they rest in peace forever. And may the future be bright for those still lucky enough to have their lives.


“In the end, the whole of life becomes an act of letting go,

but what always hurts the most is not taking a moment to say goodbye.” ~ Life of Pi

Thanks for reading this entry. Peace out!


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