Fridley High School students witnessed first-hand the impact of drunk and distracted driving during a simulated fatal crash on April 25 and 26, during the two-day Arrive Alive program.
Held at the football stadium, juniors and seniors watched as their peers acted in an eerily realistic simulation of a two-car collision that resulted in the death of two students. After the “crash” occurred, law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics and a medical helicopter responded to the scene.
Junior Alexis Thao and senior Johannah Barrett portrayed the two students who lost their lives as a result of the drunk driving accident. Senior Harrison Blum portrayed the drunk driver who was arrested at the scene and taken to jail.
“The purpose of this program is to bring awareness to the dangers of distracted and impaired driving,” said school resource officer Randi Oman, who coordinated the program. “Actually allowing our students to experience the sounds and sights of this deadly scene is meant to impact their future decisions.”
The following morning, students gathered in the auditorium to watch a short film of the event that occurred the day before, as well as the consequences that followed. In the film, Harrison faced a judge in court and was sentenced to prison.
Harrison said the realistic scenario made an impact on him. “Acting through this scenario made me realize that everything can change in just one moment,” he said. “But it’s up to you to make good decisions, as the accident was completely preventable. I think this whole experience has made an impact on a lot of us.”
Following the film, the program featured guest speakers who brought emotional awareness and spoke about the legal implications of impaired and distracted driving.
Impact speaker and Mothers Against Drunk Driving member Gina Calistro shared her personal story of tragedy. Her father, Michael, lost his life due to a drunk driver, while her mother suffered severe injuries.
The program also featured two additional impact speakers – Pat Barrett, former Fridley High School teacher and father to Johannah, who spoke to students about his daughter’s simulated death. Aloda Sims, Fridley Middle School family and cultural liaison, portrayed Alexis’ mother.
“No one wants to hear their parents speak like that,” said Johannah after her father presented. “It was all really hard to listen to.”
Senior Bryant Howard added that the experience has made him realize that it’s possible to lose someone in the blink of an eye.
“Even though it was all staged, this was such a real experience,” said Bryant. “Seeing someone you know die is not something you think about every day.”
Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo and Fridley Director of Public Safety Brian Weierke also presented the legal dangers of drinking and distracted driving – reiterating that the impact of one’s poor actions go far beyond the original crash scene.
Principal Patty Hand said the goal of the program is to bring awareness and education to students with regard to distracted and impaired driving.
“We want our students to be safe and make the right decisions. We hope what they learned from this lesson has a lasting effect now and throughout their lives,” said Hand.
Held in partnership with the Fridley Police Department, Arrive Alive was brought to Fridley High School in 2015 and occurs every two years. The program involves a number of community organizations that volunteer their time and resources, including Allina Ambulance, Life Link III, Miller Funeral Home, Schmit Towing, Fridley police and fire departments, as well as Anoka County’s dispatch, sheriff’s office, attorney’s office, public defender’s office and district court.