The day before their prom, Glascock County students watched one of their classmates die, two others cut from a mangled car and carried off in ambulances and a fourth arrested, handcuffed and placed in the back of a patrol car.
The event was staged, but the message was real. Accidents happen to teenagers everyday, and according to national statistics, every 33 minutes, a person is killed in alcohol related wrecks.
McDuffie County EMT Ann Cross works on a "victim" during the Ghost Out.
"We want every child to stop and think," said Wanda Davis of Glascock Action Partners, just minutes after watching paramedics zip her oldest son into a black body bag, tears still marking her face. "It takes a lot to get these children's attention. For a lot of them, this is their first real date and they need to think about consequences. Things like this are crucial. And it being someone they know, their classmates and peers they see going through this, hopefully it will get their attention."
A number of area agencies and emergency personnel worked together to organize the event.
"We do this about every two years," explained Tim Edwards, Director of McDuffie County EMS. "We're trying to make a visual impact to go along with what they've been told their whole lives. We want them to see what can happen when you act irresponsibly."
The mini-drama lets students see everything that happens at the scene of a serious accident in real time.
"Today some of your classmates are out joy riding, drinking beer and drag racing," Pastor Tim Ferrell told those gathered. "These things don't go together."
McDuffie County Paramedic Keri McNair straps a "victim" to a stretcher during the Ghost Out.
He then proceeded to tell them about Holli Wood, a sophomore, and 18-year-old Shaventa Jenkins, classmates of students deciding to race their cars at a favorite local drag strip and the wreck that ensues.
EMTs arrive and begin providing immediate first aid while local firefighters physically cut the bodies from the car. They move 17-year-old Thomas Davis' seemingly lifeless body from the hood where he was thrown to the ground at the crowd's feet where he is later bagged and loaded into a hearse.
Sheriff's officers give Miss Wood a field sobriety test, cuff her, read her rights and load her into a cruiser.
Only the students are actors. The McDuffie County paramedics, firefighters and other officials are the actual people who respond to wrecks like this one. They are the people these students would see at the scene of real accident.
"It was pretty scary to me," Miss Jenkins said later, after the audience had left and she stood there beside the destroyed vehicle. "Being there, in the vehicle and knowing that this could happen to you or someone you know. ... Some kids don't think it could ever happen to them, but it can. I just kept thinking, please, get me out."
She believes the Ghost Out will definitely have an effect on some of her fellow students.
Thomas, the student who died in the scenario, said he was a lot more nervous during the presentation than he thought he would be.
"Hopefully, people will look and see what can happen and think about it," he said. "I didn't expect it to be like it was. I'm glad they didn't zip it (the bodybag) up all the way."