The chilly, overcast Thursday morning cast an appropriate setting as North Forsyth High School students watched their peers being pulled from a mock car wreck.
Two ambulances and Forsyth County fire trucks and a handful of sheriff’s vehicles surrounded the red Jeep.
While students were only watching a recreation of a typical alcohol-related wreck, it clearly had an impact.
The annual Ghost Out event, rotates among the county’s high schools to show the impact of poor decision making before getting behind the wheel.
Beth Hebert, North’s principal, said the event “makes them think about their choices.”
“Prom is this weekend, and we really want kids to be safe,” she said. “Teenagers don’t believe it can happen to them … so this shows them how real it can be and the consequences.”
Ghost Out is a collaboration among multiple agencies, including the county’s fire department and sheriff’s office, the state highway safety office, Georgia State Patrol and county coroner, among others.
“All agencies come together to send a message to students,” Hebert said about the event, which was last held at North three years ago.
Leaning against a fence, junior Kaitlyn Smith was in tears as she watched the firefighters try to pry the students from the Jeep.
“It bothers me,” she said. “I’m very emotional toward it.”
Smith said she’s a safe driver. She’s seen two major accidents before and has attended programs to enhance her skills.
The classes and watching the Ghost Out have helped make the responsibility of driving more real for her, Smith said, but she’s not sure the message made it through to everyone.
“Looking around, all I see is smiles, so it’s really hard to see that,” she said.
But Smith was hopeful her peers would get the message, as was Hebert.
“Typically … we have a really somber response to it,” Hebert said. “We have in the past.”
Freshman Savanna Grant has seen the impact of a wreck with two of her friends, one of whom is handicapped as a result. Grant said that’s what prompted her to be one of the “ghosts” during the event.
“I’m aware that there are lots of dangers out there,” she said. “This supports awareness of drunk driving and how it can affect people.”
Natalie Williamson, a sophomore, also was playing a ghost Thursday.
The significance of the role, she said, is to show “if we all were in the accident, we wouldn’t be here.”
“If we weren’t there, this is what it would be like,” she said.
Senior Ariel Bettles was another ghost. While those in makeup were real students, their characters were designed to have no identity, she said, “because it can happen to anyone.”