Cardboard Tombstones

Second period. The little hand of the clock is on nine, the big hand on four. I’m halfway asleep, my head laid against my aging World Religions textbook, when I hear the announcement over the loud speaker.

“All seniors and all senior teachers please go out to the bus chute. Thank you.”

I have no idea what’s going on. Nor do I care. I figure it’s probably something about the senior trip to Disneyland, and rest my head in its former position until the shrill sound of the bell rings throughout the school. I walk in a daze to my next period class, not really noticing anyone or anything around me until I see the cardboard tombstones lined in rows in the courtyard.

I frown. Tombstones? A closer look reveals that the picture of someone I know is plastered on one of them, followed by her name and the words, “Killed By A Drunk Driver, March 30, 2010”.

Now I’m fairly certain that this girl isn’t dead. I had just seen her yesterday, in class. What’s going on? Had all these kids been in an accident? That was unlikely. I thought I had heard of something like this before, when the school randomly takes out kids from class everyone fifteen minutes.

Because as the statistics say, every fifteen minutes someone dies in a drunk driving accident.

Woah. Dramatic. There are at least a dozen of these, and it’s still early. It’s like we’re getting picked off, one by one. I feel uneasy at the implications of the tombstones, that these people, all these people that I know and care about, could be dead, just like that.

And I remember something, from my eighth grade year. Close to graduation, one of the graduates-to-be had been in an accident. An accident involving a drunk driver.

She hadn’t been my friend. In fact, I hardly knew her. But at the sight of the tombstones I remember her grief stricken family at graduation, all wearing white in remembrance of their angel, and her mother’s face as she accepted her daughter’s diploma for finishing middle school. I remember the day when there was almost no one in class, because everyone had skipped out to go to her funeral. I remember the choked down sobs as we all sat in our uncomfortable plastic seats in the heat of the sun, getting red as lobsters, as a moment of silence was held at graduation for the deceased.

That shouldn’t have happened. A young girl should not have had her life ripped away from her just because someone decided to get behind the wheel while drunk. It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t right that people had to be told every year it was dangerous to drive while intoxicated. It made no sense that after the whole dramatic sequence of their classmates dying, people still drove around while messed up on drugs and alcohol.

The simple fact that some stupid freshman is giggling at the absurdity of it all makes me want to punch someone in the face.

But before I can get to saying anything, a senior gets in his face. “You don’t know how serious this is,” she tells him angrily. “Just because you’re too immature to understand exactly what these tombstones mean does not mean you have the right to laugh.”

I wholeheartedly agree. Just because you haven’t known loss does not mean that you can laugh at something that means a lot to someone else, especially something as serious as death. It’s people like that freshman who make these “scare” exercises obsolete. They’re the reason people don’t get serious about drunk driving.

So, please, I implore that you take such things seriously. I know some of those “DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE” presentations are a little bit awkward, and others straight up corny. But the fact is, someone dies every fifteen minutes because of a careless, drunk driver. You don’t want to be that driver.





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