WALLENPAUPACK -  A peer’s tale of pain and perseverance offered teens additional insight as to why they should not drink and drive. At Wallenpaupack Area High School last week, students who intended on attending prom watched a mock crash and listened to senior Fatima Wahley speak of what it’s like to be the victim of a drunk driver.           

Wahley told her peers that a few weeks ago she had an experience that changed her life in a way she never imagined. While riding home from a trip with her grandmother, the family was hit by a drunk driver who drove over the median and hit the family head-on. Had she not been asleep in the backseat, Wahley’s injuries may have been life-threatening or perhaps deadly.           

Except from being in immense pain, Wahley doesn’t recall much, but she did sustain a fractured fibula, tailbone, sternum, rib cage and the side of her pelvis collapsed, all requiring reconstructive surgery. Wahley said it was the letters and care packages she received while in the hospital, that helped get her through that point of the recovery, which she is grateful for.              

While the accident occurred in seconds, it’s the aftermath that Wahley said will affect she and her family. Unsure where her daughter was, Wahley’s mother was concerned that she and her grandmother hadn’t returned home yet, but she became hysterical when the state police arrived at the family home in the very early morning to inform them of what had happened, initially leading her to fear they were dead.           

It’s been staying positive that has actually been the easiest part of this experience, thanks to everyone who has been supportive, although she’s still struggling to “accept and adapt to this new lifestyle” said Wahley. Crying as she told her story, the pain is immense as she struggles to put weight on her right leg and had to relearn how to walk. Using a wheelchair, Wahley hates, because she’s embarrassed and now, she’s unable to drive herself. But the pain is more than physical because the accident has affected her entire life, since she’s unable to attend school and be with friends, may not be able to walk at graduation or attend college orientation since she doesn’t know how her recovery will continue. Fortunately, she knows things will eventually improve, but she’ll never get answers as to why no one stopped the driver, or why the driver didn’t care about others.   

Considering it all, Wahley said, “I feel cheated” because “no one deserves this.” While she cannot stop people from drinking and driving, she hopes her peers would think about how their actions can cause great pain to others, and how one’s “irresponsible actions can affect more people than you realize.”           

Although Wahley was fortunate not to “die at the hands of that woman,” she said her peers may not be able to say the same if they decide to drink and drive, so the consequences of drinking and driving are “very real, and it can happen to anyone.”           

SADD or Students Against Destructive Decisions sponsored the crash that was a stimulation of how an accident would play out, with emergency responders doing what they do whenever there is an accident and the victims who weren’t dead, actually brought to a waiting helicopter.           

Following the demonstration, senior Serena Napolitano said the incident was “very shocking” and she felt bad that such accidents occur.           

Senior Emily Pituch called the display “eye-opening” because she didn’t envision people dying, which was “very heartbreaking.”          

A junior, Mia Watson didn’t anticipate the mock crash to be so realistic and so, after watching it, she said it was “crazy to see how this can happen to anyone.” A surprising aspect was that the driver didn’t die, but yet some of the passengers did and so, he will have to live with that for the rest of his life.           

The drunk driver in the mock crash, senior Thomas Hiller said how he felt afterwards was most affective, despite it only being a stimulation. Instead, he felt as if it was real and when he was handcuffed by the state police, it was an experience because the trooper handcuffed him as if he was an actual criminal.           

After watching the demonstration, SADD President Phoebe Cykosky said she hoped at least one person was saved from “making a destructive decision” in the future. The students present at the demonstration were all set to attend prom that happened two days after the mock crash and there was a live-stream for students inside the school so as many people as possible were impacted. Cykosky said taking part in organizing the mock crash was one of the most rewarding and enlightening activities she’s been involved in, because she didn’t realize so many people respond to emergencies and she was appreciative of all who volunteered to participate.