Knock, knock

‘Shattered Dreams’ program showcases the risks of impaired driving


Sydney Stout

Fairview firefighter checks senior Griffin Peay’s pulse. The crash was staged to raise awareness of the impacts drunk driving leaves.

“Close your eyes.

Sergeant Hunter Lewis stands behind the podium in the main gym. Lewis warned students on the dangers of driving while intoxicated. (Sydney Stout)

Think about their face, think about their smile. Think about the impact they’ve had on your life.

You have that person. You see their face.”

‘Knock knock knock knock knock.’

“My name is Sergeant Hunter Lewis with the Texas Highway Patrol, and I’m here to tell you that person is dead.”

This visualization is merely a self-inflicted reflection for the hundreds of students watching, but it’s identical to the news that Lewis delivers countless times.

Lewis stands behind the Leopard crested podium before the entire student body. The occasion: seniors Griffin Peay and Aidan Abramson’s funeral. 

After months of planning, the PTSO and Lovejoy Productions set their efforts into motion. The “Shattered Dreams” staged car accident made its debut yesterday at 1:20 p.m. to demonstrate the dangers of drunk and distracted driving. 

“It’s an experience that we value highly enough to put the time and effort into because we recognize that an experience is a better teacher than a conversation,” PTSO board member Stephanie McGowan said. “We even looked at doing a smaller scale version, and when we met with the Lucas Fire Department, they said, ‘Yeah, but let’s do it all the way.’”

Eight students took part in the program as actors: Peay, Abramson, seniors Riley McGowan, Molly Martian, Keeton Levin and juniors Hannah Dollinger, Evelyn Kwonn and Ali Arbabi. An email was sent to parents on Tuesday to notify them of the fake car crash.  

“According to [the fire department], this does impact kids,” Stephanie said. “We want to communicate a couple of key things, not just drunk driving but also distracted driving, impaired driving of any kind. We understand from the DPS officers that the combination of alcohol and drugs kills.”

The weekend before spring break Dollinger, along with the broadcast staff, filmed the hospital scene. Dollinger, the crash victim, receives the news that she was paralyzed from the waist down after a spinal injury in the crash. Freshman Chloe Smith edited the film with junior Yamato Ingram as scriptwriter and camera operator.

“Filming in the hospital was extremely realistic, and somewhat scary due to the nature and speed of the nurses and doctors,” Hannah said. “Overall, though, the experience was amazing, and I thoroughly enjoyed getting to talk to all of the paramedics and doctors on call about a real situation like the one we were filming that day.”

Broadcast and the PTSO ran “Shattered Dreams” with the help of volunteers, students and emergency response officials. The program not only serves as a PSA to students but as training for the Texas Highway Patrol, Lucas Fire Department, Fairview Fire Department and staff of Medical City Mckinney.

The PHI Air Medical helicopter lands in the front parking lot to pick up senior Aidan Abramson. Abramson played the role of the distracted driver. (Olivia Lauter)

“Last week, DPS had said [because they] have gotten such great support from our community members, they said they would gladly come in during the day and do a presentation and work with us if that eliminates a 3 a.m. knock on the door,” PTSO board member Cherania Dunn said.

In the past, the “Shattered Dreams” project expanded over two semesters. This year, the crew narrowed it down to two months. 

“The feeling stays with you, as well as the visual of it being in front of you, to have that impact on students,” PTSO board member Camille Simpkins said. “If we are able to impact one student, we have done our job.”

Leading up to the car crash, the school held the “Day of the Living Dead” on Wednesday. Every 15 minutes, Casey Littlefield escorted the Grim Reaper to “kill” a student in the building, representing the 28 lives lost every day due to disrupted driving. Students would return to class with zombified makeup and a black t-shirt; they remained silent for the rest of the day. 

“The objective was for people to feel their absence,” PTSO board member Maria Richie said. “Their experience initially was the kids were trying to make the person talk and then they wouldn’t talk, and then they would get mad at them. They couldn’t connect with that person and that’s really a representation of what happens in life.”

The last time the high school ran the “Shattered Dreams” program was six years ago. Sgt. Lewis says that just one of his state troopers arrested three DWIs last weekend.

“You hope that nobody’s out drunk driving, but unfortunately, that is a pretty common occurrence especially when it comes time for prom or a big event like that,” Lewis said. “I think they’re picking a great time to put that thought in everybody’s head. If one person thinks twice before getting in the vehicle after having too many drinks, then you’ve saved who knows how many people.”

Senior Riley McGowan gets arrested by a state trooper. Riley played the role of the drunk driver. (Sydney Stout)

More than 25% of all traffic-related deaths are the direct result of alcohol impairment according to NHTSA. In 2019, 10,142 people died from drunk driving crashes. Lead paramedic Thomas Wood says he works with car accidents on a weekly, monthly basis.

“I’ve been doing this for about 10 years now,” Wood said. “Car accidents are getting more frequent and a lot more dangerous these days. The moment you get behind the wheel of a car and you’re intoxicated, your mortality rate goes up.”

Blurred vision, slower reaction times, loss of coordination and dull senses are some of the many side effects of intoxication.

“When you’re a younger age, it seems like you’re invincible,” Wood said. “There’s a lot of people I know that aren’t here today because they had too good of a time. We all want to enjoy that hype, that vibe, but it was their last choice. Hug your mother. Say hello. Kiss your girlfriend, hold hands. Take every advantage to really care for those you love, because you just don’t get those seconds back.”

All eight actors met in one video to inform the school of their safety following the crash. Since launching for the first time in 2012, the “Shattered Dreams” program continues to inform students about the dangers of drunk and distracted driving. For first responders, it’s a road they know all too well. 

“We get to see the other side of it; we see the family when they first come into the hospital,” Wood said. “‘I wish we hadn’t had that fight. I wish we hadn’t gone to that party.’ Everybody says I wish, I wish, I wish. At the end of the day, you can’t take things back. You can’t erase what was done. I really hope that everyone takes away, ‘Hey, look, I love life. I love myself. I love the people that are around me.’ Love is the most important thing.”