MHS Ghost Out returns after pandemic absence

Published 9:00 am Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Middlesboro High School held its first Ghost Out last Thursday since the Covid pandemic began.

Ghost Out began in 1994. At this event, students learn facts and statictics about drinking and driving. All week they learn, take quizzes and win prizes. On the last day of the event, the “grim reaper” will walk around the school selecting students who “have been killed” either by drinking and driving, or by a drunk driver. Before the program, each selected student writes his or her own obituary. The program consisted of speakers from the county and Mother’s Against Drunk Driving (MADD) National President Alex Otte.

Otte gave her testimony about how she was hit by a drunk driver. Her story is different than most, as she was hit by a bass boat instead of a vehicle. She left the scene with a shattered jaw bone, broken collar bone and neck, shaking baby syndrome, shattered femurs, and a lacerated liver. When the boat landed on her, it severed her right leg below the knee. She was in a coma for a week with a long road of recovery ahead. She encouraged the students to not drink until they are 21 years old, and if they choose not to listen, she hopes they will call someone instead of getting behind the wheel. She says drinking and driving is not an accident but a choice that people make that can change someone’s life forever.

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When all the speakers were finished, the selected students held candles as the coroner read each individual obituary that the students had prepared for themselves. Once the obituary was read, the “grim reaper” would come over and touch each student’s shoulder, signalling they had died. The students blew out the candle and then laid down as paramedics placed a sheet over them. At the end of the program, the students in the auditorium looked at the 15 students on the stage as they laid there “dead.”

“It’s heart wrenching to me,” said Joy Williams, Youth Service Center Coordinator at MHS, “but I want to bring these programs and keep bringing these programs to remind the students that their choices can sometimes be fatal to them and others. Just working in the school system and knowing that we have lost students to what others did driving. I’ve told the students today, it’s not happened now, but it has in the past, and I’ll never get over it. You all mean something to all of us.”

She said that the school called the parents the day before asking for permission and to not mention it to the students. Walking into school on Thursday, none of the students were aware of what was going to happen. Williams says she is looking for the shock factor, because none of these students will witness this program again.