It was a gruesome scene that some 600 Harriton High School juniors and seniors won't soon forget. And that was the whole idea.
The Monday morning before this weekend's senior prom, the students gathered in the bus circle in front of school to watch a realistic depiction of what can happen when a driver makes a bad decision.
As the sounds of metal crashing and glass shattering were played over a loudspeaker, tarps were pulled off two cars, which appeared to have collided head-on. Students from the Harriton Theater Company, their faces bloodied with makeup, straggled out of the vehicles, dazed and trying to figure out what had happened. Two students played the roles of victims who were unable to get out of the cars -- one trapped in a back seat unable to move, one halfway through a windshield, seeming not to breathe.
Lower Merion Police arrived on the scene, sirens blaring. After assessing the scene, they called for the Bryn Mawr Fire Department and Narberth Ambulance to come assist the victims. Fire crews had to use the "jaws of life" to get to the unmoving passenger who had been thrown through the windshield, as an actress portraying that victim's distraught mother arrived on the scene. The driver of one car was put through a field sobriety test, handcuffed and placed in the back of a police car.
The juniors and seniors watched in silence as one of the student victims was loaded onto a stretcher and put in an ambulance. And some were visibly shaken after the student who had gone through the windshield failed to respond to the paramedics' efforts to revive her and the coroner was called to the scene. She was placed in a body bag and loaded into the back of the coroner's van.
After the dramatic scene concluded, students returned to their advisory classes to discuss the impact of what they had witnessed. Then, they went to an assembly where they heard from the survivor of a real accident with similar circumstances, along with first responders and representatives from Main Line Health and State Farm Insurance, who sponsored the event.
The message was clear. While the student actors who portrayed the victims in this case were able to wipe off their makeup and go back to class, in reality, victims may not be so lucky. Students were encouraged to make responsible choices as they celebrate at the prom and other festivities this spring.
Please see the slide show for images from the Mock Crash.