Bells tolled as the casket was wheeled in, followed by the Grim Reaper. Students, holding candles, walked in slowly to take their places. As their obituaries were read, the shadowy figure tapped each one, and they were then laid down and covered with a sheet.
This eerie and ominous spectacle was the culmination of a “Ghost Out” held at Grayson County High School just before Christmas break. The ceremony was a major part of a week-long campaign by DECA members Katie Hayes and Madyson Weiland highlighting distracted driving, and was especially poignant during a season of merriment.
A dozen students had been pulled from classes throughout the day by the Grim Reaper. They wrote their own obituaries, which included dreams of college and goals that would go unrealized. They also mentioned their survivors. Family Resource Director Barbara Allen pointed out that the students were all especially concerned about their mothers’ reactions.
One of those was freshman Grace White, who said, “once you start writing your own obituary, it really sets in.” She added that listening as the obituaries were read by Coroner Joe Brad Hudson, made it very real.
Senior Talon Gary added, “I think everybody realized the seriousness of everything and really learned from the experience.”
Weiland and Hayes had already put together an impactful week of activities, revolving around distracted driving, particularly texting while driving. Weiland’s aunt, Cindy Hudson, had been part of the high school’s last Ghost Out four years ago. When she shared “the impact it had on students,” said Weiland, it became a premiere part of their project.
Both said there was a lot of good feedback from the program. According to Hayes, “Our main focus was to touch at least somebody in hopes of saving their lives and showing the dangers of texting and driving.”
The Ghost Out featured student readings and a presentation by School Resource Officer and former Kentucky State Trooper Norman Chaffins, who cited several sobering statistics.
There are 26,000 vehicular deaths every year, with 2.2 million injuries. Distracted driving is becoming a leading cause of fatalities, especially among teen drivers. Cell phone use increases the likelihood of an accident by four times, and of all crashes, 28 percent are attributed to cell phone use.