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Shattered Dreams hits home

Chris Hensley urges students to make good choices. Chris Hensley recently described how he wandered around the scene of a deadly car crash searching for his son, Cody. He begged emergency personnel to help him find his teenage boy as they were scrambling to help the victims of the one-car accident.

After an hour of watching as survivors were hauled away in ambulances, first responders took the McKinney father to the open field where his son was laying, lifeless.

“The chaplain had walked over and said, ‘Sorry I have to tell you this, but Cody didn’t make it,’” Hensley recalled. “I see him there lifeless, and all I can do is say, ‘Cody, please get up. Cody, please come with us.’ But he didn’t. Because he was laying in the middle of a field. Off Monte Carlo Road. Under a white blanket. Dead.”

But this father’s agony was just beginning.

“I still have to walk a hundred yards to the truck and tell my wife,” Hensley said. “And I have to explain to a young girl that her brother is not coming home. Ever. Then I have to plan a funeral. We still have to deal with grief. Especially during every holiday. His birthday. Or when we hear a song that reminds us of him.”

Although the details of this father’s story are tragic, he used the opportunity to share with teenagers at Princeton High School regarding the dangers of getting in the car with someone who was drunk. Hensley was speaking on behalf of Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers as part of “Shattered Dreams,” and the accident he described occurred in 2015 and also claimed the life of PHS senior, Stephen Chaney.

The simulated drunk-driving scene is powerful. Officer Humphries conducts a simulated field sobriety test. The Princeton Fire Department has presented “Shattered Dreams” seven times in the last decade, repeating the program every other year to send a strong message to the juniors and seniors attending prom, and this year’s drunk driving re-enactment really hit home.

The “Shattered Dreams” speakers never try to soften the tragic consequences because they are there to make an indelible impact on the minds of the kids before they make their own choices.

Hensley reminds PHS that his son is gone because of a decision.

“We are all defined by the choices we make,” he said. “Drinking and driving is a choice. And it has a dead end. One in two people are affected by drinking and driving, and it is 100 percent preventable. You don't want to end up like myself, so please make the right choices.”

The crash scenario had another chilling reminder, as the Jeep used in “Shattered Dreams” was from a wreck just a few short weeks ago.

“We want to prevent this scenario from happening by making an impact on the students,” said fire Capt. Steve Gammons, who organized the effort with fellow firefighter Kristi Thornton. “The Grand Cherokee used in today’s simulation was the vehicle from a local wreck where the kid was texting and driving.”

PHI medics prepare to transfer a victim. “Shattered Dreams” is the joint effort of several entities, including Princeton fire and police departments, AMR, MADD and Lowry Crossing fire department. In addition, PHS students saw recent graduates Cammie Chandler and Brandon Ferguson in action as they volunteered with the fire department.

Several community members donated their time and services to make “Shattered Dreams” come alive. First Choice Towing provided the wrecked vehicles. PHI landed its medical chopper, and Turrentine-Jackson-Morrow funeral directors were on site with the hearse.

PHS grad Cammie Chandler works on the scene. “I responded to the call the night Cody lost his life,” Police Chaplain James Stephens said. “Having to respond to a major fatality is not something I like to do. I don’t want to tell families their son or daughter is dead. We hope something we've said sticks in your heart because you need to know how final it is. Leave the booze alone. Put the phone down. Don't make me have to do my job.”

Although the students understand the program is designed to scare kids into making good choices, it remains effective because they are hearing what has happened to people right in their own town.

Turrentine funeral directors load the deceased. “I thought it was really good,” junior Hunter Worthy said. “It definitely made an impact, and I even cried a little.”

The nature of “Shattered Dreams” touches the hearts of the students who witness the scene and hear from those touched by drunk driving accidents.

“It made me cry, and I had chills when I heard about the car being from the wreck with the teen texting,” senior Alex Adams said. “It makes you really think. When someone tells us something, we don’t really think about it. But when they show us what it’s all about, it makes it real. We don’t just think, but we see.”

Students watch Shattered Dreams.