Bloodied bodies and wrecked autos littered the Johnson High School parking lot on a recent spring morning.
Good thing none of it was real.
Local first responders collaborated with the school to highlight the dangers of distracted and intoxicated driving. This comprehensive program, called Shattered Dreams, transformed an ordinary campus car park into a deadly crash scene as student-actors and actual emergency personnel staged a DUI accident.
“Prom is coming up … there is no reason to drink and drive,” said Amy Morgan, PTSA vice president and an organizer of Shattered Dreams at Johnson. “The program is very impactful for everyone involved.”
Students got a close-up look at the gory aftermath of drunken driving; some said it really shook them.
“It has been very surreal,” said senior Grace Valderama, who portrayed a victim. “It’s a really important message.”
The facts are sobering: In 2016, according to officials, San Antonio led the state in DUI-related traffic crashes with 1,845. The sale of alcohol to Bexar County minors also is among the highest in Texas, authorities said.
Sherrilee Demmer, a trauma-injury coordinator at San Antonio Military Medical Center, said alcohol-related traffic collisions kill one person every 15 minutes.
“It’s not about drinking and driving, it’s about life and death,” said Demmer, who helped plan the first Shattered Dreams program locally nearly 20 years ago.
The Johnson exercise included a simulated tragedy of a drunk-driving accident, rescue and recovery, and victim’s memorial service. The mock calamity featured volunteers from the San Antonio Fire Department, Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, Texas Towing, the Texas Department of Transportation, SAMMC and Porter Loring Mortuaries.
As part of the presentation, a Johnson volunteer posed as the Grim Reaper and other pupils represented the living dead, signifying those who suffered an alcohol-related demise.
The campus also hosted a Shattered Dreams event two years ago. Valderama said she knew the student who played the crash victim.
“It was shocking. I got the full effect. We talked about what it was like to go through.”
This time, Valderama played the driver of the car struck by a drunken motorist. She “died” after being thrown from the vehicle and landing on the pavement.
As part of the enactment, officers even went to her home to inform relatives of her death. A hearse arrived to carry away the deceased.
The drunk driver was arrested, taken to jail and arraigned. Several passengers from other totaled automobiles also suffered injuries, augmented by lots of fake blood.
Michelle Cevallos, an SAFD paramedic, noted the worst calls she is dispatched to involve children and teens.
“When we have runs that involve kids, or kids have died and we have to talk to their parents, it’s hard,” she said.