Over in a crash

15 years of friendship disappear in 15 minutes


Jennifer Douglass

Dayne Douglass prepares to mock his own death in the ‘Every 15 Minutes’ program.

I was sitting in class reading my book when my principal came over the intercom and told the entire student body my brother died. My teacher then proceeded to read his obituary consisting of only the facts about his life.

This is what I experienced two years ago when the “Every 15 Minutes” program was held at Canyon High. The “Every 15 Minutes” program teaches students the impact drinking and driving can have, imitating an accident where students portray students killed by drunken drivers. Many students were involved, and every 15 minutes an announcement was made that another student was “killed” by someone driving drunk or distracted. After the day at school, the “dead” students were taken to a retreat center where they talked about the impact their deaths had on the people around them.

I couldn’t even comprehend what life would look like losing a best friend.”

— Faith Douglass, 11

My brother Dayne Douglass was a part of this program posed as “dead,” and to emphasize the impact his death had on my family, we wrote letters to my “late” brother. This was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to write. So hard, I could barely get through an entire page without leaving tear marks all over the page. My brother and I have always been decently close; however, when our oldest brother moved away to college, we became a lot closer. Thinking of him as a dead was so very unimaginable I didn’t even know what to say in my letter. He has always been a mentor, role-model and friend to me, and I just couldn’t bear the thought that he was killed by accident or by choice. I couldn’t even comprehend what life would look like losing a best friend.

As I was in great denial over the whole situation, Dayne was actually having a lot harder time with his own death than my family believe it or not. When they got to the retreat center and began to open the letters and read what their families had to say about them passing away, Dayne said he thought he would start with mine, because he thought it would be easier to read. He said he thought it would be something light-hearted, because maybe I didn’t think completely about what it would really be like to lose him.

I definitely wasn’t ready to say goodbye.”

— Faith Douglass, 11

He read my letter and couldn’t even finish it, because he said he couldn’t bare the thought of losing me. This is the exact same feeling I had as well. He said he read the other letters and knew just about what they would say, but mine in particular was no closure letter at all. I ended the letter with no ending, really because I didn’t know how to say goodbye like that, and I definitely wasn’t ready to say goodbye either.

The “Every 15 Minutes” program was very beneficial to those who “died,” but it also touched the families affected by it as well. While my mom and I were having a really hard time trying to comprehend the fact that our loved one was gone, little did we know it was actually a lot harder for Dayne. He told us it was most hard for him to read the letters, because they were saying goodbye, and he had to think about what it was like leaving everyone behind. The hardest part about the experience was the realization most people aren’t ready to say goodbye to their friends and family. It makes it 10 times worse when bad choices, even someone else’s bad choices–are the reason someone loses his or her life. 

Life is too short to make one wrong decision and lose everything in the blink of an eye.