Every Fifteen Minutes Funeral Assembly

Olivia Dumas, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Students, faculty, and staff stood silently as bagpipes blared and a fake casket was brought in by participants of the “Every Fifteen Minutes” program.

The second part of the two-day “Every Fifteen Minutes” program involved holding a mock funeral for those who had “died” during the previous day’s mock drunk-driving car crash, which took place on the football field. The entire program was coordinated by two Woodside High School juniors, Alex Torres and Katrina Rohlfes.

In regards to the funeral preparations, Torres said, “It’s been done so many times so there’s an outline. The woman from the program helped us with all these documents of how people from other schools did it, so we tweaked it a little.”

A small group of students that were taken out of class to be in the assembly the previous day were sent to a retreat with “Every Fifteen Minutes” leaders and California Highway Patrol officers. Their parents had an evening retreat where they wrote letters to their children. Hannah Alston, a senior at Woodside explained that the retreat was an emotional and touching.

“The retreat was a very intense experience. We kind of just played games for the first part and then after dinner we watched really graphic videos,” she stated. “We talked about our experiences and the CHP’s.”

The students came back to school the next day to partake in the funeral. In the first part of the mock funeral, friends and parents of the “living dead” read letters in front of the school. Hannah Alston recalls what she felt when her friend, Isabel McClure, read her letter.

“It made me cry a bunch,” Alston said. “I think now our relationship is a lot closer. I definitely think she reaches out more.”

Tia Lesu’i, a senior, states what he felt for his mom when she read his letter aloud in front of the school.

“I feel bad for my mom because she was crying and saying I was the youngest one and saying that she didn’t want to lose me,” Tia stated.

The last letter was written by Katrina Rohlfes in which she was writing to her parents and two sisters.

“We wrote the letters on the retreat and everyone had to write one. It was hard. It’s such a surreal thing to be doing. These were potentially the last things my relatives would hear from me,” Rohlfes said. “After the events I got DM’s and text messages about how they connected with me through my letter.”

After the letters were read, Dominica Cardenas did a small presentation about her father’s death from being hit by a drunk driver. When asked which part of the program was more emotional, Hannah Alston explained how the funeral differed from the mock car crash.

“I think it depends on the person. The first part was very graphic, but the second part played more with people’s heart strings,” Alston stated.

Although some of the program was critiqued by students and faculty, Rohlfes explains why she thinks it was necessary no matter the cost.

“Your life is so precious,” she said. “I don’t care how much we spent on it. Even if we saved one person it would have been worth it.”