WESTPORT-Before members of the Westport Volunteer Fire Department started their mock accident May 5, Westport Central School superintendent Dr. John Gallagher took a letter from his pocket.
"I have been asked to read this to you by someone who wanted to be here to talk with you today," Gallagher said.
The man was Alex Canning, a leader at Camp Dudley who nearly lost his life during a New Year's Eve accident just over four months ago, an accident which claimed the life of his friend, John Frankel.
"The experience and time since the accident has changed my life," Canning's letter stated. "I remember waking up with breathing tubes down my throat ... My family was surrounding me informing me what happened and that my best friend had perished."
Following Gallagher's reading, Jack Napper, a volunteer with the department and school bus driver, spoke.
"That call right there," Napper said, trying to speak through the emotion, "It's not an easy job. That was a real hard one. There was a young man that did not survive. It's not a fun job."
Brad Rascoe, who helped to put together the event, said that the letter from Canning helped to show students that something like a drunk driving or other accident can happen in their back yard.
"It's a real good message from someone who has been through it," Rascoe said. "Most of the students have only heard of an accident that happened somewhere else, but this happened here. He spoke from his heart and told what it was like having to live through this and knowing the victims and knowing the person who died."
"It's hard for us knowing most of you and most of your parents to think of having to go up to them and say that you were involved in an accident and you are now dead," David Napper, who organized the mock accident, said.
During the mock scene, students watched as firemen and EMTs worked to free trapped passengers from two cars, police officers questioned and eventually arrested one of the drivers, and as workers placed a sheet over one of the drivers, signifying a fatality.
After the scene, students said that the mock accident and letter from Canning impacted their thinking.
"The horrors of what happens when you drink and drive and how it affects not only the family but the whole community when something happens," student Emily French said.
"I don't know Alex personally," Mallory Sudduth said. "I know his story and I think that it does help people because this is a real life person, not a story."
"Every time my Dad an I take a walk on Dudley Road, we see the memorial and we talk about it," Gabe Schrauf said. "It's kind of and eye-opener to think that this happens to kids like us."