DRACUT — The party, which was spiraling out of control, spilled out of the basement and onto the front yard.
The teens, all students from Dracut High School, piled into the SUV. Bridget insisted she was OK. She hadn’t had much to drink.
Inside the car it was difficult to determine where they were headed; their conversation was mostly unintelligible. Headlights, screams, and a horrific crash. Silence.
The annual “Make A Date With Life” held May 21 took on a new twist this year as school and police officials try to impress upon the students the danger of drinking and driving, particularly during the prom and graduation season.
All 295 seniors relived the mock fatal car crash as the three-minute video played on the large screen inside the Dracut High School Auditorium. As the Class of 2010 sat in darkness after the crash, the lights went up softly on the corner of the stage to reveal a shiny, silver casket surrounded by candles and a photo of Brendan Mahoney, Bridget’s twin brother.
“I love you guys. You were some of the best friends I could ever have,” came Brendan’s voice softly over the auditorium loudspeaker, admonishing his classmates to make safe decisions, not only for the summer, but for the rest of their lives.
Colleen Conlon, the twins’ mother, sat in the front row of the auditorium, shaking her head as several students consoled her and a photo presentation played on the screen, showing the twins through the years.
Accompanied by Dracut Police Officer Jon Gosselin, Bridget took to the podium, dressed in gray prison garb. Gosselin removed her handcuffs and, with her brother’s casket just feet away, Bridget addressed the crowd.
“He was my twin,” she said softly. “For 18 years, I had somebody that I could share everything with. From tying our shoes to learning to drive. It was my fault. I killed my brother. My friend. I destroyed my family. I don’t expect to ever be forgiven.”
Before heading out to the front of the high school where they would make a solemn pledge, the students watched a photo collage of the Class of 2010, accompanied by such songs as Green Day’s “Time Of Your Life,”which includes the lyrics, “Another turning point. A fork stuck in the road. Time grabs you by the wrist. Directs you where to go.”
“It’s meant to be emotional and painful,” said Dracut Fire Lt. Andrew Powell, who has organized the annual event for the past several years. “It’s meant to give the students the information that will cause them to think before they get in a car.”
Students filed out of the auditorium and onto the lawn in front of the school. Surrounding what will now be known as “The Tree Of Life,” students lit candles and solemnly pledged not to drink and drive or to get into a car with a driver who has been drinking.
“We’re all at that age where we want to have fun,” said Class President Kayla O’Shea who led the pledge. “Let’s keep this promise alive.”
Surrounded by students, Conlon said the presentation was difficult.
“Two things no parent ever wants to see,” she said of her son’s mock death and her daughter’s mock arrest. “But it told a great story. A powerful story. I hope it gets through to all these kids.”