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EVERY 15 MINUTES...
By T.L. Petersen
Observer Staff Writer
Laurie was dead.
Her arm was flung outside the upside-down small car on the lawn near the east doors of La Grande High School just before 8 a.m.
Water from the crying skies dripped down her arm. The ambulance had come and gone, taking three of Lauries classmates to Grande Ronde Hospital, but she was waiting for the hearse from Lovelands Funeral Chapel.
La Grande Police Officer Lisa Reddington was having Robert Bates take field sobriety tests in front of the gathering students.
I was shaking so bad, a nearly blue Laurie Kett said about 15 minutes later. I wanted to move so bad my hand was out in the rain and I was shaking.
Was it real or not?
La Grande Police, La Grande Fire and Ambulance rescue workers, Kevin Loveland, a small army of volunteers, the staff at Grande Ronde Hospital they were all hoping that those moments of seeing the wrecked car, watching victims being taken care of and watching people they knew face the consequences of drunken driving would make a lasting impression.
Every 15 Minutes started with a simulated fatal crash. Throughout the day, police notified parents that their children had been involved and some had died.
A Grim Reaper stalked the hallways of La Grande High School, pulling a student at a time out of class every 15 minutes, the rate at which impaired driving claims a young person every day of the year in the United States.
Gravestones appeared outside the lunchroom.
As volunteers dealt with the students in the school during the day, the young people directly involved were seeing the consequences from another angle.
Just after 8:30 a.m. Robert Bates, the impaired driver, was led into Union County Circuit Court Judge Eric Valentines courtroom. Bates had been taken to the jail, photographed, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit and placed in cuffs.
Valentine led Bates through an arraignment proceeding.
Even as the judge set the stage, asked photographers if they had what they needed and gently kidded Bates, a question remained about the impact on the high schooler who had volunteered for the role.
The look on Bates face wasnt much different than a real defendants. And Bates noted that the cuffs and chains limiting his movements werent comfortable.
At the high school, more students were pulled from class by retired State Police Trooper Jack Eckrich dressed as the Grim Reaper.
And where were Mike Mendoza, Kristina Derry and Casey Sheehy, the students injured in the crash?
Every 15 Minutes concludes today with a presentation at the school. Those with roles will talk about their experiences, as will people who have faced the results of impaired driving in their own lives.
Perhaps the point was being made Wednesday morning.
One teen boy, walking into the school, hoped it wasnt real, but admitted that the scene around the school was crazy.
Oh, brother! For a minute I was thinking Oh, my gosh. Then I realized it was all staged.
I was really shocked. It scared the crap out of me, admitted Diedra Pokorney, 16.
Susie Cederholm, an Every 15 Minutes ... volunteer who works at the Center for Human Development, and teacher Ernie Dinsmore were monitoring impact on students.
Dinsmore heard early in the morning that there had been a bad accident, he said, while Cedarholm, standing outside the school, said she thought that the scenario was really getting to some of them.
And that was the point, officers agreed. If they reached some students and made them think about consequences, especially as they get into a car, maybe they wouldnt have to deal with the impact of a real crash.