First-person Reflection: “Psychologically, I became part of the dead”


Celeste Lopez

Foothill junior Celeste Lopez learned first hand about the dangers of distracted driving while acting as an injured passenger in Every 15 Minutes. Photo: The Foothill Dragon Press staff.

Editor’s Note: Celeste Lopez, a staff writer for The Foothill Dragon Press, was selected to act as a passenger seriously injured in a drunk driving accident in the production of “Every 15 Minutes” December 7-8 at Foothill. Here, she reflects on the experience and her new understanding of the costs of distracted driving.

My mind was blank, the vision of blood surrounded me, the sirens grew closer, the groans of my neighbor became more and more real, and then it was pronounced, someone was dead on the scene.

The people seemed mesmerized by the crash as if it was some sort of act; but in some ways, it was no act. The first tear slowly emerged as I thought, “I will never see my parents again.”

It was not until waking up the next morning that I was granted the luxury of saying “it’s ok, it’s not real.” The experience of that day was so significant that psychologically, I, too, became part of the dead.

Before the two long and arduous days that went into making “Every 15 Minutes” possible I envisioned driving as many of us eager teenagers do. I saw myself with the windows down, the radio on full blast, and the carefree mind that comes along with the breeze of velocity. “Every 15 Minutes” was able to put me in the shoes of one of the 6,000 people each year who are affected in some way by distracted driving. It has helped me to view driving with the sensible mind that is needed.

We, as teenagers, seem to get caught up in the fantasy of what could be and forget about the reality that is. This reality consists of bodies that never heal, minds permanently distorted, and families living on with only memories of what once was.

Our decisions can grant someone a body confined to a wheelchair, our decisions can render many to a life of confusion, and our decision can cost a mom, a dad, a son, a daughter–a life. These outcomes are 100% preventable; it is not some predetermined law that every 15 minutes someone has to get hurt. We have the power to add on to the statistics or to be one less.

Officer Anthony Pedeferri should not have to be confined to a wheelchair. Tyler Tatangelo should have been able to pursue his dreams of living an ordinary life. But now because of our choices Tatangelo is left mentally disabled, and officer Pedeferri is left a quadriplegic.

I hope everyone can soak up the reality that is and make something of it in the future.   Before “Every 15 Minutes” I rode in cars with people who were clearly intoxicated, never once thinking of the consequences.

What this experience has given me is the power to think and the power to know. With the knowledge gained and the ability to spread the word I, along with many others, have been granted an opportunity to help to decrease the number of deaths and to be a voice for the many lives lost. Please, be one less.

“Every 15 minutes someone in the United States dies or is seriously injured in an alcohol-related incident. Today I ‘died.’ I never thought this would happen to me. If I would have known, if someone would have warned me, if life didn’t catch up to me so quickly, then maybe I would have had the chance to tell you…

These are the words I was fortunate enough to say in the goodbye letter I wrote to my parents. I say “fortunate” because so many people never get to bid their last goodbyes. Every 15 minutes these words are robbed from someone’s subconscious, leaving them as nothing more then memories and an addition to a statistic. Lets change that.

What do you think?