A hearse from the Valley Memorial Park Funeral Home backed into the narrow space near the Rancho Cotate gym. Being a Wednesday morning in early March one would question as to what has happened at the local high school.
A casket was pulled from the back of the hearse with pallbearers standing by. Hal, the bag piper joined the procession to take the flowered covered casket into the gym for the rest of the program.
During the two-day events, the “Grim Reaper” called selected students out of their classrooms with one student being removed every 15 minutes. Obituaries are then read and police will go to the home of the student and have the difficult task of notifying the parents of the death of their child. From that point on, the victims will not speak or interact with other students for the remainder of the school day.
Rescue workers were present, the coroner handled fatalities and police and ambulances were busy taking victims to the hospitals and pronouncing the time of death.
At the end of the day the students who participated in the drill were taken to a local place for an overnight student retreat. The next day they came back to the Ranch and participated in the rest of the program.
The “Every 15 Minutes” program focuses on seniors and juniors and challenges them to think about the consequences of drinking and driving. The program for the Ranch began back in August with the CHP, the Sheriff’s Department, The Rohnert Park Police and Fire, coroners, students and parents being represented.
The California Highway Department plays a huge part in this exercise as they donate grants and local police agencies, schools and private donors all have a hand in giving donations.
A short film was shown as to what happens after students drink alcohol and try to drive to school intoxicated and, on the way killing several students and passengers.
Every four years different high schools will put on the drill. Ron Henderson, a local coroner has helped with about 10 or 12 Every 15 Minutes programs. Each one has a different impact on students and parents.
Principal Amy Carter tried to impress upon the audience to think twice before getting into a car with an impaired driver be it by alcohol or drugs.
Recently the kids are made to play the actual roles within the accidents. Make-up, costumes and flowers are all arranged by the coroner. Cars are crushed, students bloodied, handcuffed and taken to the local jail. Many students and parents’ cheeks were wet with tears. Each and every person should have the opportunity to see or participate in “Every 15 Minutes.”