by LAURA HAYES
It’s a parent’s worst nightmare, but one morning in 2009, it became Linda Murphy’s reality. Officers came to her house, told her to sit down, and said, “Jordan was killed in an accident.”
Minnesota State Patrol troopers reported that just after 5 a.m. on May 24, Linda’s 21-year-old son, Jordan, lost control of his vehicle while driving on Highway 43 in Fillmore County and the car flipped over. Jordan, she said, was a good driver. That night, however, Jordan was thrown from the car because he wasn’t wearing his seat belt, and Linda said he was killed immediately. His three passengers were transported to the hospital with minor injuries. Troopers reported that alcohol was detected on all four occupants.
Every day, Linda thinks about her son, wondering if he would be married or have kids or what kind of job he would have if he were still alive. Every holiday, Linda said she has to see Jordan’s empty chair. “My world was over. I have two other children and I’m here for them, but my world ended the day I had to bury my son. A parent should never have to bury their child,” Linda said.
Last week, Winona Senior High School (WSHS) students got a taste of the impact of driving under the influence of alcohol. WSHS W Club led a staged car accident where a drunk teen drives through a stop sign and crashes into another vehicle. Police cars and ambulances flooded the scene, staged outside the high school. WSHS seniors watched as their classmates were pulled out of the cars and taken to the hospital.
Kris Nibbelink, who is a WSHS teacher, W Club advisor, and the mother of WSHS senior and actor Eden Nebbelink, arrived at the mock accident. “That was pretty emotional,” Kris said. “I don’t usually cry, and I didn’t have to fake those tears.”
The hardest part, Kris said, was watching Eden be taken out of the car and having police keep her away from the kids. “I’ve known most of those kids for years,” she said. WSHS student Danneka Voegeli added that she almost started crying when she heard Kris crying for Eden. Take it seriously, Voegeli said. “It can happen to anyone,” Eden added.
This is not the first year that WSHS has held a mock crash to warn students of the dangers of drinking and driving. This year, the W Club sponsored the event along with Winona County ASAP (short for Alliance for Substance Abuse Prevention), local law enforcement, and funeral homes. “I think it’s really important for the kids to visually see the consequences of not wearing a seat belt and drinking or using drugs,” Kris said.
ASAP Program Coordinator Phil Huerta said that in a recent survey, three in 10 middle school and high school students thought that there was slight to no risk binge drinking once or twice a week and one in 10 juniors reported driving after consuming alcohol. “That’s a lot of potential deaths,” Huerta said. Alcohol and drug use, he explained, is often glamorized in movies or television.
Between graduation parties and prom, Huerta believes that this is a key time to stage a mock crash. The mock crash is just one of ASAP’s awareness campaigns. In June, ASAP will host a "sticker shock" campaign during which students will place stickers on cases of beer, cautioning parents not to supply alcohol to teens.
It’s not worth drinking and driving, Linda told the students. “You leave behind people that have to live the rest of their lives missing you,” she said. She suggested calling parents, friends, or cabs. “Don’t chance it,” Linda said.