It's a sight every parent dreads: Two crashed cars, one dead kid, five lives changed forever.
Mayor Ron McDaniel said it best:
"I never want the police to come to my door and tell me that was my son or my daughter."
On the Chesterfield Road on Thursday, in front of an audience of juniors and seniors from Montville High School, students in the drama club, along with police, fire and emergency services personnel, staged a mock crash to bring home a message: Don't drink and drive.
Later, a man who had gone through the real thing, spoke to the kids.
In the crash, Amanda Giroux, driving one of the cars, crosses the line and smashes head-on into another car driven by Dillon Johnson. Megan Rotkowitz, a passenger in his car, is badly injured. Molly Conforti, another passenger, is dazed. Amanda Giroux escapes with the most minor of injuries, but her passenger, Matt Clark, is killed.
The audience, watching along the fence of the softball field, stopped laughing and chatting as the scene unfolded. Though everyone knew these were actors playing roles, the reality grew as the police arrived, did sobriety field testing on Giroux, and arrested her and took her to prison.
The reality grew as police put Rotkowitz on a stretcher and placed her in an ambulance.
The reality grew as police covered Clark's body and left him there, while they attended to the living.
Back in the auditorium, Montville Police officers informed Clarks' dad, played by Daniel Dunn, of his death, and stood by him while he dove from disbelief to grief.
And then, Marc DiCiccio, an inmate at Corrigan-Radgowski Correctional Center, spoke to the kids and answered their questions.
When DiCiccio was in college, a night of drinking ended up with him going the wrong way on a highway and killing a man in his 40s. DiCiccio was sentenced to 20 years in prison, and has served seven. He will be eligible for parole later this year.
He was in a blackout when he hit the other car, he told the audience, and he doesn't remember it.
But he knows he'd never do it again.
Prison is a nightmare, he told the audience. It's the same day, over and over, with no freedom, and the constant threat of attack.
"You're surrounded by murderers, rapists, sexual offenders, crackheads, heroin addicts. It's a dog-eat-dog life. A constant battle."
In addition to the tremendous guilt and sadness he feels about killing the man in the car, DiCiccio said the strain on his family was awful, too.
At first, he said, "They didn't even want to talk to me."
He was on his parents' insurance, he said, and so they could have lost everything.
Time and counseling have helped the family heal, and DiCiccio says he will live at home when he gets out, unless he is ordered to a halfway house.
He hopes to become a drug and alcohol counselor after prison.
"To kids not taking this seriously," he said, "If you don't pay attention, this could be you. I was here, I was in your position, listening to someone like myself standing here, and I didn't take it seriously... I just wanted to have fun."
McDaniel summed it up:
"These things are preventable. Don't drink and drive.
"As mad as you think your mom or dad or your guardian might get at you, they'd much rather get up in the middle of the night and pick you up some place than have you get in a car with somebody who'e impaired... Please take a valuable, valuable lesson from this.
"Don't drink and drive."
- Groton's junior prom is Saturday at the Mystic Hilton
- The senior prom is June 9 at the Mystic Marriott
- Fitch High School graduation is June 22