In May 6 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
A “Ghost Out” program was held for Russell County High School students just days before prom at the Russell County Schools auditorium/natatorium complex to warn students about the dangers of alcohol and drugs and more common problems such as text messaging and cell phone usage behind the wheel of an automobile.
Last year, nearly 800 people died on state roadways due to vehicle crashes. More than 200 have already been killed this year, according to state statistics.
These crashes are the number one killer of teens and over one-third of teen traffic deaths are alcohol-related, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Thursday morning, a guest dressed as the Grim Reaper stalked the hallways of the high school and selected 15 “victims” to help participate in the program later in the day.
These “victims” represented the average number of people killed in alcohol or drug related crashes during a school day and were declared dead.
An emotional memorial service was conducted for the 15 selected victims who were chosen by the Grim Reaper. Jamestown Elementary Principal Wayne Ackerman read the obituaries of the 15 students that had been chosen.
As their names were read, each of the students blew out a candle they were holding and fell back into the arms of Russell County Emergency Services Personnel, laid to the ground, and draped with a white sheet to mimic their death.
During the end-of-the-day assembly, two guest speakers, Tammy Bastin of Pulaski County and Royce Burton of Russell County, who both have lost children in automobile crashes in the past, addressed the dangers of driving to the student body.
Bastin, who lost her daughter nearly five years ago in an alcohol-related crash, spoke first.
“It is very hard speaking about losing someone you love,” she said. “It can happen to any of you.”
Bastin, whose daughter was passenger in a vehicle where the driver was impaired, said accidents do not discriminate on who it affects.
“It doesn't just affect you, it effects everyone you know and especially your family,” she said. “You can be snatched away from this earth in the blink of an eye.”
Burton spoke next. His son, Luke, a Russell County High School student, died in an automobile crash in November 2008.
“Everything you do is a choice, a decision,” he said. “You're old enough and smart enough to make the right decision and I hope you do.”
He told the crowd that they all need to be ready in case of a crash by having Jesus in their heart.
“I know Luke did, he was ready, and I hope all of you are so you can see him again because I'm going to,” he said.
Helping to put on the event were Partners in Prevention, the Department of Highway Safety, the Russell County School System, Russell County 911 Center and EMS, the Jamestown and Russell Springs Police Departments, H.E. Pruitt Funeral Home, MADD, Coroner Larry Skaggs and Deputy's Clete McAninch and Nick Bertram of the Russell County Sheriff's Office.