Crowd sobered by anti-drinking message at Kingston Jr. High

KINGSTON — When she was in junior high, Katie Buchanan never listened to anti-drinking messages.

Friday morning, she travelled to Kingston Junior High so someone else might.

Buchanan, who was a student at KJH last year and now attends both North Kitsap High School and Spectrum Community School, was one of the speakers at pair of anti-drinking assemblies held at the junior high.

“I recognize some of the faces out there,” Buchanan said to the bleachers packed with students, some of them her former classmates.

Then she told her story: how she had gone drinking last February, offered to give several friends a ride, then hit her brakes too hard on Port Gamble Road and flipped the car; how the windshield had shattered and the car filled with broken glass; how, when she undid her seat belt, she had dropped so hard to the ceiling of the car her friends thought she was dead.

No one was seriously hurt in the crash, for which Buchan received a DWI. But it is what could have happened that haunts her.

“The thing that hurts me most is the fact that I could have killed my friends,” Buchanan told the hushed crowd. “I have nightmares about being in the car with all my friends dead.

And although no one was hurt in the crash, she detailed the pain that followed: court dates. Restitution. An injured reputation.

“It’s always going to be there in your head,” Buchanan said.

She had been preceded by Shirley Wise, the traffic safety coordinator for Kingston Junior High.

Wise showed slides of auto accidents, all of which had involved drugs or alcohol. Many of the victims were young, and several of the photos were disturbing enough to draw a collective “Eeewww” from the crowd.

Wise was followed by Buchanan, who was followed by James Worley and Carl Bill, inmates at the Cedar Creek Correctional Facility in Little Rock?

Both told their stories: how they got involved in alcohol, in drugs, and eventually, in crime.

“I wasn’t much older than you guys,” said the 20-year-old Worley, who is serving a six-year sentence for a robbery.

“Six years,” Worley said. “That’s a long time. Where are you going to be in six years? Getting jobs? Graduating from college?”

He looked at the crowd.

It was quiet.

“Six years,” Worley repeated, “is a long time.”

Worley said most of the inmates he meets are in for alcohol or drug-related crimes.

Bill, the next speaker, told a story not unlike Worley’s; but Bill is in jail for a robbery-turned murder.

Drinking and drug use, he said, led him down that path.

“I grew up around drugs and alcohol,” he said. “And that’s where my life hit the wall.”

The assemblies grew out of several students’ attendance at a recent Reduce Underage Drinking and Driving conference.

It was the students’ idea to bring the message to KJH, said teacher Linda Golden, who helped put on the assemblies.

Ninth-grader Erykah McCarty agreed.

“We decided we wanted to share our experiences, especially with spring break coming up,” McCarty said.

She said, “Usually, this goes in one ear and out the other. But we hope this will get absorbed between those ears.”

Buchanan agrees, and hopes her presence will help that message stick.

“None of these messages hit me,” she said. “I never saw that the people I knew were affected by the consequences.”

Students Jarrid Beltran, Krystal George, Tony McDonnell, and Kees’ Napoleon, along with McCarty, helped put on the assemblies.

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