*Prom Night

For me, and many of the readers of my Year on the Road, prom night is a half-century in back of us.  The luckiest of those folks still see their prom dates every night at dinnertime.  

Many have children or grandchildren who are churning with excitement as their own prom nears. 

On April 20, 2012 in Tallahassee, Florida, there was a dress rehearsal for prom night.  Not the dress rehearsal where fathers worry and wonder how their daughter’s dresses stay up.  Not the one where the boys need to find out the color of their date’s dress so that the corsage matches. Not the one where I get to reminisce how great Penny Pollock looked in her fiery orange gown that Bridgeton High School night.

Last night’s dress rehearsal was staged by the Trauma Center of Tallahassee Memorial Health Care to raise awareness that prom night has a tragic side. 

Somewhere there will be an alcohol-related auto wreck.  A real teen will die, another maimed, another sick to death for life for causing the accident.  A school will be in shock: kids traumatized, parents crushed, angry, and grieving.  Other parents hide their guilty gratitude that it was someone else’s kids.  And for an entire class, prom night will not be the fountain of treasured memories and comedic anecdotes.

The Trauma Center with the help of local police and emergency response teams stage an authentic-looking accident.  Using teens as actors and a real totaled car, they act out a grisly scene.  Sirens screech the arrival of emergency teams, police restrain hysterical parents, and frantic EMT’s attempt resuscitation.  Bandages, joke blood, and makeup enhance the reality of the setting.

The simulation does its job.  However much, the kids who participate or observe take away a sense of having witnessed a real experience, and are less likely to be prom night statistics.  Would that there were some way to measure statistics that never came to pass. 

Is there a way a word from you might commence or enhance a program like this?  Is there a way a word from you might make a difference to a young person?  

And, for my own curiosity, who among you are still going steady with your prom date?

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7 Responses to *Prom Night

  1. Colleen Rae says:

    Well, I married my prom date – he was my first husband. Nice guy, just not ready for marriage, nor was I. I had my first alchoholic drink that night; a Tequila Sunrise. My date mixed it in the car and the four of us (we double dated) got very drunk. I was so sick, I threw up for hours. And for years I couldn’t drink orange juice without tasting the tequila. Thankfully we did NOT have a car accident but we could have. I cannot stress enough how important it is to NOT drink and drive. I did get holy hell from my mother when I got home at 5 a.m. stinking of alcohol. Believe me, it is not worth it to court death in that way. Better to let life run it’s course. If I had died in a car accident that night I would never have met all the wonderful people I have in my life, traveled to all the exotic lands that I have traveled, written all the stories and books that I have written or had my two wonderful children. I think the Trauma Center is a great idea to show kids BEFORE the accident what it would be like.

  2. Didn’t attend the prom for my high school graduation. I was at work at my night job washing dishes (30 hours a week since 10th grade) until close to midnight so no way to marry a prom date–no way to even have a prom date.

  3. David LaRoche says:

    I didn’t marry my prom date, a steady who left with my ring, but about half a dozen or so did and today are burying one another after the appearance of a long happy life. Very few in my class of about 120 drank during or immediately after HS, maybe a beer from the “older gent” at the other end of the table. The after prom “doings” were at the “Toll House,” a coffee shop/ restaurant bosting a large parking lot. Pepsi was the drink enjoying popularity then – that and a burger kept most of us satisfied. Our life was good, no one was desperate, and the exchange of “ideas” in the back seat was excitement enough. I had my first taste of booze at an engineering school I later attended, a remotly located part of MU. Out of 2000 students, seven were girls, and I think booze, then, was our subsitute – and not a very good one. I was a fraternity man and the pressure to drink competed heavily with the encouragement to study. Some people died, but it wasn’t on prom night

  4. zerotosixtyinoneyear says:

    I married the guy I boycotted the prom with over 40 years ago. We were part of the school’s counter culture, so naturally we bagged the prom and went to Tilden Park instead. Had our own little party…no drinking, just paranoia about getting caught.

    AL, many high schools around the country put on the “Every 15 Minutes” program, which is identical to the prom rehearsal you wrote about. It makes a lot of sense to make it prom-related. Kids will always think they’re immortal, until tragedy strikes. And common memory is short, so it’s a good idea to have these programs repeat every few years.

  5. Sheri Cohen says:

    I’m from Wisconsin at a time when the legal age for beer drinking was 18. So naturally, with the aid of fake ID’s, everyone started drinking at 16, which coincided with our ability to legally drive. Now that I think about it, I’m amazed we survived that era, given my memories of getting in the car with clearly intoxicated teenage drivers. But thankfully, my memory of prom night doesn’t include that threat, primarily because my friends and I were more focused on the fairy tale aspect of transforming the gym into a Wonderland, getting dressed up and dancing the night away.

    As for my date, I completely forgot about the guy until a few years ago when I attended a 45 year H.S. reunion and some man yelled “My Prom Date!!” from across the room. It took me a few minutes to remember his name, much less the evening. Too bad we can’t tell the current generation of prom goers how events that appear monumental at the time can be so insignificant in the big picture – – unless there is an incident related to that drinking/driving thing, of course. In that case, prom could be the most significant event in one’s life. I’m glad mine was a largely forgetful, generally pleasant, but distinctly uneventful experience.

  6. MaryAnne says:

    Hi Al,
    so sorry to be late with this response…..I’ve been travelling in Scotland and Ireland.
    As a medical professional, having spent more than a few shifts in the ER I am wholly in favor of the types of pre-prom programs you experienced. Hopefully they will reduce the tragic losses we’ve known thru the years.
    As for my own (senior) prom….t’was a marvelous event with my escort being the brother of a classmate and a boy I had a huge crush on. He was also brilliant and on his way to a prestigious university for future studies. One year after arriving at university he suffered a mental breakdown and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. His future was forever changed and life on meds was far less than he previously knew. He lives in L.A. and is self sufficient, to a degree, and did work occasionally as an actor (bit parts) as he never lost his good looks. I often think back to our Prom night and appreciate my knowing him before and after his illness and thus appreciating all I have in my life today.

  7. janiebrew says:

    Married my prom date. 45years now.

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