Even at the toughest school, Sherry Chapman said she’s never had anything but respect.
After she and other parents speak, students are usually stunned and silent.
“Often times, kids will cry,” said Chapman, whose son Ryan Ramirez, died in a car accident in 2002. Or they’ll come up to her afterward and hug her, promise to stay safe, or say her son reminds them of a friend.
Sometimes they'll say, “I would never want this to happen to one of my friends, and I would never want my mom up there on stage.”
Chapman is founder of Mourning Parents ACT, Inc., a safe driving group that will visit this morning to talk to juniors and seniors about the dangers of distracted driving. It's the first time the group called !MPACT, has visited the school. Group members have either lost a teenage family member or friend in a car accident, or survived an accident themselves involving a teenage driver.
Fitch students will hear from two speakers this morning.
David Graham was a college student who was driving when he crashed and one of his friends died. Graham had had dreams of becoming a teacher, had gotten a new car and had picked up the two brothers of his girlfriend at the time.
Police later determined he’d been speeding; Graham doesn’t remember the accident, just waking up, hearing one of the passengers screaming, and being pulled out by the jaws of life. Graham learned later that one of the boys had died.
He went to court and to prison. He talks about the accident and what happened after.
Linda Strickland, of Colchester, is making her debut speech today. Her son, Alexander C. Bousquet, 16, died on July 19, 2006, in a car accident in Fort Washington, Md.
Bousquet’s oldest son was driving with her younger son and another teenage passenger when they crashed. Her older son survived; the two other passengers, including her younger son, died.
After the stories, the group will show a memorial video about the children they’ve talked about, give a power point presentation about car accident statistics and explain what happens to the body during a crash.
“Blunt Force Trauma”
They'll talk about what “blunt force trauma” means. Chapman said there are three collisions that occur in an accident. The first is when the car crashes into whatever it hits and stops; and the second is when the driver and passengers inside the car stop.
“Their body slams into whatever brings it to a stop,” Chapman said. “If they’re lucky, it’s an airbag or a seat belt. If they’re not, it’s the windshield or another passenger.
"Hopefully, if you’re in the front seat, the kids in the back are wearing their seat belts too, because if they’re not, they act as projectiles, causing your impact to be that much worse.”
The third impact is when the internal organs hit whatever they hit inside the body, she said.
Blunt force trauma is typical of a car accident, Chapman said. About 5,000 teenagers die in car crashes each year in the United States.
“We get to the kids’ heads through their hearts,” Chapman said. “We don’t preach. We share. We’re very personal and the kids just respond to it. We’re just sharing with them our pain and experience.”