Voices

Stark Lesson West Valley Students Get A Blunt Lesson In The Life-And-Death Realities Of Drinking And Driving

A little boy, blond and serious, stood and stared at the car accident. He - and hundreds of adult and teenage onlookers - could see at least one victim. Others were trapped in a mutilated Scirocco. Rescue vehicles arrived, sirens sounding.

His father bent over.

“James, they’re pretending. This isn’t a real accident,” he said. James Barkley, associate pastor at Eagles Nest Ministries, explained to his 4-year-old son about the mock accident at West Valley High School.

“Do you understand that, son?” The child nodded, but looked more comfortable cradled in his father’s arms a few minutes later.

Students at the school spent Tuesday morning in an assembly presented by Students Against Drunk Drivers. It was a starkly emotional occasion, particularly as Doug Sherman spoke. He is the oldest brother of Anna Sherman, a former West Valley student who died in a car accident in February. Troopers at the scene said teenagers in the one-car accident had been drinking.

On the school’s football field, where the mock accident unfolded, students played out the roles of victims, drunk driver and anguished passengers.

Television cameras hovered, but the events seemed real enough to keep most of the audience rapt.

An announcer explained what rescue workers were doing and emphasized the seriousness of driving under the influence.

“Ladies and gentlemen, those drivers commit murder. They don’t shoot with a gun; they shoot with cars,” the announcer said.

Jackie Kresek watched, too, and thought about her weekend.

Kresek works as a trauma nurse at Deaconess Medical Center. She was on duty Saturday when ambulances delivered victims from the five-car, two-fatality crash at Hamilton and Mission in Spokane.

“It gets to me,” Kresek said. It was her job to tell Julie Allen’s mother that her daughter had died in the accident.

The hardest thing was “having the mom ask me over and over whether her kids were OK.”

Julie Allen was an eighth-grader at North Pines. Jason Allen, 15 and a ninth-grader at North Pines, was treated and released after the accident Saturday.

In the gym at West Valley, Sherman told students about his own life. Adult abuse of alcohol and drugs permeated his childhood. Sherman told of his father’s substance abuse.

“Even when I was a little boy, he would get me drunk. I was two years old and he would get me high. He was in his late teens himself. He somehow really got a kick out of that.”

It took years and more than one brush with death before Sherman, now 31, married and the father of four, pulled himself away from drugs and alcohol. His father, Tim Sherman is now head pastor at Eagle’s Nest Ministries on Trent in the Valley.

Sherman told of the candlelight vigil the night after Anna’s death.

“Walking among you,” he told the students assembled before him, “I could smell alcohol on your breath.

“This makes no sense. My little sister died last night and you’re drinking.

“‘They’re not getting it,”’ he’d said to himself. “‘They’re going to drive off and do exactly what killed Anna.”’ Sherman begged the teens to think clearly.

“Things you do now affect your future. Listen carefully to what I’m going to say,” he said, spacing his words for emphasis.

“My sister’s death has affected us for generations. We can’t get her back.”

He spoke to those teens in the audience with a drinking or drug problem.

“Don’t act like ‘I don’t have a problem.’ You’ve got a problem. Talk to a counselor. Talk to your parents.”

He asked the students to make sure that Anna’s death makes a difference. He was finished, the gym quiet.

“Can somebody say ‘OK’?” he asked.

Quietly, a second before the crowd responded and burst into applause, came Jackie Kresek’s voice: “OK.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo



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