The sedan with oxidized blue paint looked startlingly familiar to me when I saw the photograph of a wreck posted on the internet. But as I read further, I learned that high school students had participated in a mock DUI accident last week on the eve of their junior prom, and that the pictures of bandaged and bleeding teens were pretend, all aimed at educating our fragile youth to the dangers that might befall their inexperienced judgments.
The blue Chevy in the mock accident had been the same make and vintage as my kids’ “learner” car. Taylor and Adam and their stepbrother before them all drove the old heap until they went to college. Adam, the last to use it, cracked the engine block when he didn’t get the oil changed as needed. We donated the Corsica to be salvaged after that, and for all I know, that actual junker may have sat in a salvage yard until going on to die a second death in last week’s mock disaster.
The pictures of that old car were chilling to me, but not nearly as much as those from the real accident just a short time later that took the lives of two Moab students, left three others terribly injured, and rocked the lives of families, friends and school faculty in our little town.
We’ve all had close calls behind the wheel. But for the grace of the universe do we stay alive from day to day. Even when we simulate the things that can go wrong, and practice to avoid disaster, it still happens. When it comes to kids and school activities, we tend to worry about it most around graduation and warm-season special events. The outdoors and dark skies beckon the urge to build bonfires and have parties and stay out too late.
None of the kids that were inside that crumpled car after it rolled several times on the La Sal Loop Road early Sunday morning had participated in the long-practiced promenade held the night before. But prom night may have been a catalyst for them and others to have a night of fun and to tempt fate; the tragedy that befell them will forever be etched on the Class of 2018’s debutante dance and many more Moab proms to come. That is a lesson that will be more harshly taught than any mock disaster can impart.
What does it tell adults and authorities in Moab? That we have to redouble our efforts to help our youth make smart choices. That we need to listen to the chatter going on among kids when we suspect they may be planning to kick up their heels. And we need to work more closely with law enforcement to monitor youth gatherings, especially when alcohol is bedeviling their fun.
I remember a public service announcement that used to come on the television every night before the news when I was a kid. A simple but strong statement would air: “It’s 10 o’clock, do you know where your children are?” It got to be sort of a cliché around our house to hear that question. That said, my folks didn’t always know where I was, and decades later when I became a parent, there were plenty of late evenings when I didn’t know exactly where my kids were. Every parent knows that immense sense of relief when a child comes home safe and sound. Perhaps there is more we can do as a community to keep our kids out of self-served harm.
Accidents happen. The one early Sunday morning was purely tragic, touching scores of lives. It’s the worst lesson of all. I join with hundreds of other people to express sorrow for the loss and damage that has unfolded.
ByBy Sena Taylor Hauer