They say it’s all fun and games until someone gets hurt … or killed.
That’s a lesson learned by the Eisenhower High School juniors and seniors who lined up Wednesday morning in the school’s south parking lot.
They arrived to find two cars, damaged and disabled from a head-on collision. Fellow classmates were stationed inside the vehicles. One appeared dead. Others, dazed and injured.
The onlookers were looking to the scene. Many laughed or smiled.
Then the sirens wailed and a cadre of Lawton police motorcycle units and patrol SUVs tore into the parking lot, quickly followed by a rush of Lawton fire engines and local ambulances. Silly turned serious in a heartbeat.
For many, this would be the first time really seeing first responders race into action as they would in the real world. If that wasn’t a slap to the face to open kids’ eyes to reality, the whipping dust, rocks and shorn grass flying into their faces with the arrival of the Comanche County Memorial Hospital medi-flight helicopter to the school’s track field would be.
The event was a pre-prom mock collision demonstration to show the impact that can come from distracted and impaired driving.
LPD Sgt. Matt Dimmitt described the activities taking place as the first responders scrambled into a role all too familiar in their real-world careers where they have to do all they can in an emergency.
“Your whole life can change because of one bad night,” he said.
As firefighters carried a “deceased” teen in a body bag to just feet away from the student audience, its impact became noticeable. Faces smiling only moments before began to understand what it means to be dead because of bad decisions.
The driver of the car that caused all this carnage, a student actor wearing a yellow tie around his head and a silly grin, was pulled from his wrecked vehicle. He was being checked to see if he’d been driving under the influence.
An adult actor rushed into the scene, saw his “daughter” had died and he pushed through police in an attempt to get to the driver who caused it. Some teen faces in the audience pulled back in shock at the unexpected emotions on display. It was jarring.
It’s a reality LPD Sgt. Pat Calfee has seen all too often in his time working the the scenes of fatal crashes.
“I’ve been with the Traffic Division 13 years and have worked over 100 something fatalities,” he said. “One fatality is too many.”
Besides the physical, emotional and mental effects felt to those directly impacted in a fatal or injury wreck, Calfee said it hits the first responders equally hard.
“If it’s a kid, it makes us feel bad because we have kids of our own,” he said.
Calfee said the coordination between the Lawton Public Schools and the local first responder community to make the mock collision demonstration happen was phenomenal.
“There’s a lot of coordination,” he said. “It takes a lot to do it.”
But it’s worth it, according to Calfee.
“It’s very important we get it out there that drinking and driving is very bad,” he said. “Hopefully it (the demonstration) affects these kids; the worst thing I have to do in this job is give a death notification.”