Every 15 Minutes Recap

Every 15 Minutes is a biennial program which attempts to dissuade students from driving under the influence by staging 17 fatal car crashes over the course of a single school day. Here is a recap of the event.


Chloe Kim, GBHS Ursus Yearbook

Sarah Jackson watching her son, GBHS student Adarius Jackson, lying dead in the Every 15 Minutes simulated crash.

It is a chilly Wednesday morning. A student whispers. Outside of Granite Bay High School, the messy aftermath of a car crash sits ominously. A crowd of high school students watch as a mother screams in agony for her child, lying half outside his car’s windshield. 

There is an air of finality. 

Smashed windows. Bloody bodies. Flashing sirens. Another small whisper. Even in the commotion of the crash, the wails of the ambulances and the cries of the survivors, it is the whispers that stick out. In a deadly silence, the smallest noises are deafening.

Every 15 Minutes is a biennial program which attempts to dissuade students from driving under the influence by staging 17 fatal car crashes over the course of a single school day. In 15 minute intervals, Granite Bay High School students are pulled out of class and are effectively “dead,” not to be seen by their classmates, teachers, friends, and family until the next day. 

The significance of a student “dying” every 15 minutes and the program’s title comes from a 1990’s statistic describing the frequency at which people die in alcohol-related motor-vehicle crashes. 

The program’s two main events are a staged car crash on Wellington Way and a memorial the following day. On the first day, professional first responders showed up to the crash site and attended to those injured in the impact as well as their “dead” friends, played by GBHS students. Behind the scene, those who have already passed stood gravely, adorned in white make up. They were a haunting backdrop to the chaos of the road. 

Jordyn Harris, a senior, watched one of her close friends, Hannah Lang, emerge from the crash, bloody and bruised, in front of the entire upperclassmen.

“It was really scary. I had no idea that she was going to be in the crash,” Harris said. “She did a really good job of keeping it from me, so it was really really surprising when I saw her get out of the car. My heart literally dropped.”

While Every 15 Minutes officially started on Nov. 18, the meticulous, secretive planning to host such an event began months in advance. The two days of school which Every 15 Minutes plays out over required the collaboration of student government, media, first responders, and of course the students that would be dying, known as “the walking dead.” The simulation had to run with clock-like precision. 

Senior Luis Yuson was one of the selected few that was asked by student government to be part of Every 15 Minutes. It was a difficult decision. 

“The part that was easy for me to say yes (to) was that it’s a pretty unique experience to be a part of,” Yuson said. “But the no was impacting the lives of my family and maybe some friends.”

Senior Nicholas Grahame’s family was reluctant to let him participate.

“My mom was really scared. She was actually so scared she had to leave and go to LA for the day because she didn’t want to handle the deputy showing up and saying that I ‘died,’” Grahame said. “My dad was upset about it, but he thought if you could save someone else, I might as well do it.”

Others, such as Junior Eddie Sheehy, were honored by the chance to help spread awareness about the dangers of drunk driving.

“At first my parents’ reaction was that they were also super hesitant with it just because of past trauma and what they’ve gone through with it,” Sheehy said. “But eventually, talking with them about the whole thing, they realized that the program is for the better of the community and how it will help kids. Like if it’ll prevent one life from going away then it’s all worth it.”

To represent a student dying every 15 minutes, drama teacher Zachary Magan, in pallid, white makeup and a black suit, entered each dead student’s class and placed a black rose on their desk. The student would pack up their items and leave the room. From there, an officer would read a personal, pre-written message from the student’s parents. As quickly as they entered the Every 15 Minutes crew exited, leaving only a black rose where a student once sat.

“Mr. Z honestly startled me. I did not see him come into the room,” physics teacher Elizabeth Henderson said. “The whole class just went silent. And that’s what I looked around. I wanted to run away. I was like I didn’t really know what to do. It was so sudden.”

Henderson was the only teacher to join the walking dead, which was all the more startling to her students.

“My students are mostly sophomores. They were stunned. And I could just hear a pin drop. They were so silent,” Henderson said. “They looked like they were taking it in like hard. That was pretty shocking. You could feel the tension in the room.”

To bring the simulation to life, GBHS’s media department produced a video, which captured the narrative surrounding the crash and the deadly consequences of drunk driving.

Media strategized for two months leading up to the day Every 15 Minutes played out across the campus. Then, they needed to work in real time.

Throughout the whole first day, the media room was chaotic as students frantically worked to put together the video that would be shown during the memorial. A student film crew captured the entire simulated car crash Wednesday morning and each of the walking dead’s exits from class during the day.

By fourth period, filming was finished and the editing process was in motion. They now had to edit the entire 28 minute video before the next day’s memorial. 

“It’s a serious video … but it’s still captivating. We have to make sure that these people want to watch it,” media student Carter Newman said. 

Capturing the deadly consequences of drunk driving and putting it out in front of the school is no easy task.

“We don’t want to make it something that kids are going to laugh at,” media student Nathan Malenke said.

Due to the rigorous time constraints, many media students stayed at school as late as 3:00 a.m., editing the video. Advisor for the GBHS Film Media program, Zachary Weidkamp, stayed on campus overnight, working on exporting and rendering issues.

Played at the memorial, the video told the story of the four teens involved in the previous day’s crash. The first half focused on each student’s life before their accident, while the latter showed the devastating consequences of the aftermath. The video featured GBHS students, Hannah Lang, Adam Dell’Orto, Avery Seva, Brynn Sommer and Adarius Jackson, as well as their respective parents.

The memorial, located in GBHS’s gymnasium, was just as somber as the crash before it. First responders, GBHS staff, and upperclassmen packed into bleachers and chairs. The chit chat of rambunctious teenagers quickly dissipated as the 22 walking dead members began their slow trek towards the stage. They were accompanied by a sparse bagpipe solo. The walking dead sat in the back of the stage, haunting the proceeding funeral service. 

Principal Amber Clark began the memorial with a short speech, introducing the importance of Every 15 Minutes and media’s video.

“(Every 15 Minutes) teaches us the importance of valuing life and abstaining from driving while intoxicated.” Clark said. “This event is emotional and meaningful and a reminder of our loss, but to also value the love of the ones that are still here.”

(Every 15 Minutes) teaches us the importance of valuing life and abstaining from driving while intoxicated. This event is emotional and meaningful and a reminder of our loss, but to also value the love of the ones that are still here.

— Amber Clark

The video was followed by a personal testimony from Tom Graston, whose nephew died as a result of driving under the influence. By now, the gymnasium of teenagers was completely silent. 

Following this powerful story, the crowd heard speeches from four people involved in the simulated crash from the previous morning: Two survivors and the mothers of two of those who passed in the impact.

Sarah Jackson gave a heartfelt testimony about her son, Adarius, who just a day earlier laid motionless, half outside his car’s windshield and surrounded by shattered glass. Her voice cracks. The room was still.

The memorial ended with a brief closing from Sheriff Devon Bell. As he wraps up the service, he asks the crowd to stand if they have been affected by a car crash or the 17 crashes that occurred the day before. 

The entire gymnasium rises. 

“Look around. Your decisions affect more than just your family and friends. They affect your entire community.” Bell said. “Move forward, be safe and make good choices. But please, let these situated deaths be the last.”

Like at the crash site, when Hannah Lang watched her boyfriend hauled off in the back of an ambulance or when Zachary Magan placed a black rose on a student’s desk or when Sarah Jackson cried in anguish at the sight of her son lying on the hood of his car, there was no noise, only the smallest whispers.

They sound like thunder.

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  • Juniors and seniors gather to observe the opening presentation of the car crash scene of Every 15 Minutes.

  • Police officers involved in the program discuss the penalties involved in the crash.

  • Senior Brynn Sommer gets taken into a police vehicle after being arrested for a DUI in the crash.

  • Graves are set on the theatre steps to signify the death of drunk driving victims throughout the day.

  • Avery Seva’s obituary is taped by others to provide remembrance of her life.

  • First responders of the “Every 15 Minutes” program carry out a casket for the funeral.

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