PRYOR, OK —
“There are serious consequences to your actions. We are here to help you make responsible decisions,” said Pryor Police Department's School Resource Officer Jeremy Cantrell, introducing the Victim's Impact Panel last week.
The students of Pryor Junior High filled the seats of the Herschel Avra Auditorium for a drunk driving Victim's Impact Panel, to follow up on the Oct. 21 mock wreck.
The panel coordinator told the students the number one killer in the 16-24 age group is drunk driving or other alcohol-related deaths.
“We have the next hour to potentially save your life,” she said. “We're here for you. “
The sentiment was mirrored in the song playing as background for a video showing Oklahoma victims of drunk driving. The words “Don't be ashamed to cry, let me see you through, cause I've seen the dark side too. I'll stand by you, I'll stand by you, won't let nobody hurt you, I'll stand by you,” accompanied the pictures.
On the panel sat three individuals close to someone in a drunk driving accident. First to speak was Ottawa County firefighter and paramedic Brian Kirk.
“Back in the day, I could have shown you pictures and videos but laws have changed so I can't now,” said Kirk, who has been an emergency responder for 18 years. “However, each of the calls I have gone on will stick with me forever. I remember every detail.”
The first story Kirk recounted, took place on a prom night. A
16-year-old couple got drunk during prom. Thinking it was unsafe to drive, they talked their 15-year-old friend into driving them home. On the way, the underage driver lost control of the vehicle and struck a tree.
The girl, Kirk said, suffered an injury “which means her brain flew around so much inside her head that it fractured her skull.”
Kirk said it took the girl three years to recover from the accident and get back to high school. She couldn't make it through college, he said, all because her friends decided to drink.
“The next one took place on Highway 10 in Miami, or as we call it 'Death Highway,'” Kirk said. “A teenage boy dropped his girlfriend off at home, took two Vicodin and started his drive home.”
The pills took effect while he was driving, causing him to veer into the oncoming lane and hit a Ford F150 truck.
Kirk said he arrived on the scene to hear the driver of the truck on the phone with his wife. He was telling his wife there had been an accident but that he was fine. He said he would be home shortly.
That driver was quickly life-flighted to Tulsa, bleeding internally.
“It took him a year and a half to walk again,” said Kirk. “The kid who took the pills was thrown onto the hood of his vehicle and killed instantly.”
Kirk said he knew the kid, and his family, very well and having to tell the parents they had lost their son was one of the hardest things he had ever had to do.
“You guys don't want to see me, or anyone like me. You don't want me cutting you out of your new car. You don't want me breathing for you or putting an IV in your arm. You don't want to need me to fight for your life,” said Kirk. “Every wreck like this that I get called to kills a little piece of me. I never recover from them.”
Kirk told the students the point of driving is to get from one place to another and a person who isn’t capable of paying attention will never make that destination.
The junior high students listened as Josie Berry took the microphone.
She spoke about her brother, Justin, saying he “was her big brother, and is now her guardian angel.”
The students laughed along with a home video of Justin goofing off with his friends.
Josie, who as known at school as Justin Berry's little sister, said he was the perfect older brother. He always gave her advice, took care of things, helped her out. After he left for college, he would come home regularly to have “brother sister dates,” she said.
Justin Berry was killed in a drunk driving accident in December 2011.
“In one instant, my world shattered. In one second, I became the oldest child. In one instant, I went from an emotional teenage girl to planning a funeral. My family no longer has a normal,” said Josie. “The next morning I had to tell my two little brothers that their bubba would never be able to play with them again.”
Berry begged the Pryor students to remember Justin when they thought about getting behind the wheel after drinking.
“I don't want you or your family to go through this, I want you to be safe. Just say no. I know you can do it,” said Berry.