Music of the Dead
Students scrambled through the bleachers, bags swinging haphazardly as they worked their way upwards. Chatter spread through the air as each student flagged down seatmates and settled in. No one noticed as the principal made his way to the gym floor, microphone in one hand, the other resting on the shoulder of a wheelchair-bound girl who had timidly followed him. Teachers tried to coral the students, but they refused to pay attention, talking about nonsense. The girl on the gym floor started to get angry. Her eyes flashed and one of her fists clenched, the other wrapped in a thick cast. The girl held out a hand for the microphone the principal held, raising her chin. He gave her a small smile and a reassuring nod before handing her the microphone. For a beat longer, she waited. When it was clear the students weren’t going to be quiet, she tapped the microphone with the tip of her finger. The students winced and cringed at the noise that scraped through the room, finally noticing the duo in the center of the gym. They watched as the girl took another grounding breath, and spoke, voice hard and accusing, “Every single one of you is dead.” The students turned and stared at each other, confused. The girl continued, “If you were in a car, every single one of you would be dead. You didn’t even see us walk in. You didn’t care that we were here. In a car, that sort of mindset will get you and your friends killed. I don’t know how many of you recognize me, but I go to school here. A friend of mine who went to school here probably won’t go to school ever again because she’s in a coma. There are two others that won’t be going anywhere ever again because they’re dead. We learned the hard way that you shouldn’t drive when distracted.” The gym was silent now, vaguely horrified expressions on each student’s faces. The girl continued, “Did you know that 50% of teens killed in car crashes were driven by another teen? How about, did you know that 75% of fatal teen car crashes don’t involve drugs or alcohol? Just because you’re not under the influence doesn’t mean you’re immortal. My friend… she was driving us over to her house to study for a test. One of our favorite songs came on the radio. We racked up the volume, sang on the top of our lungs. We didn’t see the other car until we crashed into it. I’m not sure I ever really saw it. Everything got so blurry and dizzy… Because we were singing to our favorite song, two of my best friends are dead, one’s in a coma, and I’m in a wheelchair.” She took a moment to collect herself before continuing, “I know that it’s hard to not be distracted when we drive. We’re teenagers. But, try to keep your music to a reasonable volume and try to let it be background noise. Singing along is all well and fun, but when it’s distracting your driver, it’s not worth it. You can find the song on the internet. It’s not that much of a travesty to not sing along that one time. It’s not worth this.” She gestured to herself, the wheelchair glinting in the bright lights of the gym. Carefully, she handed the microphone back to the principal. Without speaking, he turned on a projector. A memorial for the dead girls played as the students watched, lives changed forever. There was no music playing.