Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Every 15 Minutes......

Here's some photos from the mock crash at the high school. Sac Metro Fire, Citrus Heights Police, California Highway Patrol, and Sacramento County Coroner all participated.

The fire department was first on scene, and began working on the victims. Soon the police showed up, and the CHP helicopter came on scene and actually transported one of the victims to the hospital.

The drunk driver was arrested and actually taken to jail to be booked.

The dead passenger was actually zipped into a body-bag and transported to the morgue.

Pretty powerful stuff.

A Letter to Camie

If you haven't read the previous post, "A 'Death' In The Family", PLEASE read that before reading this. This won't make sense unless you read that first.

When the chaplain and the police came, I was cool, until they showed me Camie's obituary. I lost it. Actually started crying, even though I knew it an excersize. Felt freaking real.

Then, part of MY job as a parent is to sort out my feelings, and try to imagine how I WOULD feel if Camie had died, and write a last letter to her. Her obituary said she had died at the wheel of a car, killing three others with her, as a result of being high on weed. To my mind that's so unlike her, the but point of the excersize is, you just never know.

Here's my letter. This will go to Camie tomorrow at a luncheon. She's incommunicado, so there's no chance she'll read it till then.

"Dear god, Camie…. How can you be gone?

You left for school this morning so happy. Freshly showered, your hair still wet, pulled back in ponytails, still smelling like fresh soap and shampoo when I hugged you goodbye. I told you have a good day, you said, “I will. Bye, poppy”.

I cleaned up, showered, got ready for my day. Then came a knock at the door. Strangers were standing outside. The rest is a blur.

Someone, somebody, told me you were dead.

Nah, that’s not possible, I told them. The people assured me it was true. They even showed me your picture to prove they had the right kid. That’s when I lost it.

That’s when I lost you. That’s when I lost my baby.

Camie, how can you be gone?

I still smell the aroma of the shower you took this morning. I walk in the bathroom and see the clothes you were wearing on the floor, the shower still wet, the towel you used still damp, your toothbrush and toothpaste still lying on the counter where you left it. God, I don’t want the stuff to dry! Please, God, make everything stay just as it is, for a little while.

You left the CD player in the bathroom turned on, and I don’t want to turn it off, because it seems like I’d be turning off some part of you. I can’t do that yet. I did pick up your make-up and put it back in the make-up case and close it. I don’t know who will ever open it again.

I don’t even want to dump out the cold cup of coffee you left on the kitchen counter. You put it there, and for some reason I don’t want to move it, yet.

Camie, how can you be gone?

The blankets on your bed are still pulled back, right were you left them when you got up this morning. Dear god, your voice still speaks on your voicemail when I call your cell-phone. I don’t know how many times I called just to hear your voice again.

Camie, you were such a giant part of my life. I didn’t realize until you were gone. I loved talking to you, hearing you talk about friends and school and life. Watching you grow, teaching you about life, helping you learn, and finally being able to trust you was one of the most satisfying things in my life.

And now I find my trust was misplaced! You smoked dope and got behind the wheel of a car! Camie, dammit, how could you?

You were in love, and had everything to live for, and everything yet to experience in life. Gabe will miss you horribly, probably almost as much as your mother, your sisters, and I.

You’ll never get to see your baby brother grow up. You’ll never get to college. You’ll never see your own children grow up, some day. I’ll never get to see the grandchildren that might have been.

We’ll never go camping again, or drive to Lake Tahoe to play in the snow late at night. We’ll never lay on the rocks by the river and watch the stars again. I’ll never get to roll my eyes over your choice of music on the radio, or poke you in the shoulder or on the back of your knee until you’re annoyed, just because I love you and like to tease you sometimes.

I will remember wonderful things, Camie. I’ll remember laughing with you at stupid jokes. I’ll remember having serious talks with you about boys and feelings and life. I’ll remember going to movies, picking you and your friends up at the mall, having a house full of giggling kids all there because of you. I’ll remember being baptized with you.

I’ll remember the absolute and complete joy at watching you grow from an awkward child into a beautiful young woman that I loved and respected.

Camie, how can you be gone?

I have a hollow, empty place in life, now. I’ll have it forever. My baby daughter is dead. That makes no sense. Even seeing and hearing the words, they still make no sense to me. It shouldn’t be possible. When we’re young we live forever, right? Isn’t that the way it’s supposed to be?

Camie, you were supposed to come home tonight, after school. But instead, I’m lost and adrift because something so valuable was so meaninglessly torn away from me. I suppose if your death had meaning, like if you died trying to help someone, or even if you had a simple accident which wasn’t your fault, I could cope better.

But you chose to smoke! You chose to be wreckless, and that’s just not like you! You chose to be dangerous, and you killed yourself and three others. Now, not only me, but three other families are going through what I’m going through. It’s just so senseless, Camie. So senseless.

Camie, I love you, and will always love you. I know the real you, and it wasn’t the real you that did this. That was someone else. The Camie I know, I will miss forever and ever.

Camie, how can you be gone?

All my love, Dad

April 05, 2006

(Mike Jones, for Camie Jones)"

A "Death" In The Family

I sitting here waiting for a police officer and a law-enforcement chaplain to come to my door and tell my youngest daughter has died in a car crash.

I'm nervous, edgy, and a little worried about how I'll react. Will I cry? Will I feel anything? Will it seem real?

Oh, my daughter's not actually dead. She's just fine. She taking part at her high school in a program put on by the California Highway Patrol and the local police called "Every 15 Minutes". It's an anti-drinking & driving program, based on the fact that, back in the early 90's when the program was started, there was a US highway fatality caused by drunk driving occurred every 15 minutes. Hence the name of the program.

Camie was picked, along with a coupla dozen other students, to be one of the students today who are pulled out of class and declared "dead". They are taken by staff and some police officer chaperones, to a hotel for the evening, and held completely incommunicado - no phones, no pagers, no visits, nothing. They just have each other to talk to and share their thoughts and feeling with about being "dead".

How is you family feeling? How are you feeling? What impact has your "dying" had on family and friends?

And, as a part of that, I, as a parent, participate by going through the mock "death notification" just as if my daughter actually died in a crash. The chaplain and the police officer will come in and do their thing, just as if it were an actual event.

My lord, I'm getting a bit misty just typing this. I'm gonna fall apart when they actually get here.

A little later I'll go over to the high school and see the mock drunk driving accident they'll have set up on the football field. They'll have actual police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, and even, if weather permits (which it looks like it won't) a life-flight helicopter to transport one of the "victims" to the hospital, where they will go through the entire process of being a trauma patient in a major trauma ward. At least one "victim" will be transported by ambulance, and one, who will "die" at the scene, will go with the coroner to the morgue.

All this will be video-taped and edited tonight into a presentation for the school at an assembly tomorrow.

The real beauty and gravity of this is that most of the student body knows nothing about this. It's going to be a complete surprise.

Well, I think they are here now. I'll write more later, or tomorrow, and let ya know how it goes.