Last Dance program focuses on 'A Moment Lost'
by Jessica Loeding
Mar 29, 2014 | 3146 views | 0 0 comments | 43 43 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cartersville High School students Kalai Willis, left, Ross Pasley and Mallory Tidwell listen to Tiki Finlayson talk about losing her son to drunk driver. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Cartersville High School students Kalai Willis, left, Ross Pasley and Mallory Tidwell listen to Tiki Finlayson talk about losing her son to drunk driver. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
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Tiki Finlayson, left, talks about losing her son when Tish Stephens, right, driving intoxicated in the wrong direction, crashed into him. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
Tiki Finlayson, left, talks about losing her son when Tish Stephens, right, driving intoxicated in the wrong direction, crashed into him. SKIP BUTLER/The Daily Tribune News
slideshow
Beach balls bounce off the hands of Cartersville High students Friday morning. Three people compete in a dance-off on the auditorium stage. And just as suddenly as the tempo hit full tilt, the mood turns solemn.

“A Moment Lost,” a film directed by Wes Sherwin and produced by Bartow County EMS, brings to the screen the tale of a teenaged girl who climbed behind the wheel intoxicated and crashed, killing her sister.

With local prom season beginning today, the reality of drinking and driving will be shown to high schools through the Last Dance program.

“The other ones have been kind of public service announcements to really kind of scare the kids out of drinking and driving. This is not that,” Sherwin said of the film earlier. “This is, I want to show the true emotion, the true feeling that really happens to a young girl who kills her sister in a drunk-driving accident and how that plays out in court, how that plays out when she gets arrested at the hospital. I mean, we’re going to it all through flashbacks. So I just want it to be instead of a PSA, instead of something that feels very contrived, I want this to be a natural authentic conscious bird’s eye point of view of how this girl kills her sister and then deals with it.”

Featuring actors and emergency personnel from several local agencies, the movie was followed by the real-life testimonies of three women affected by drunk driving.

Representing Chattanooga-based Prison Prevention Ministries, Shelby Kilgore, arrested in February 2012 for DUI, talked about drinking underage in an effort to fit in and the ramifications, including the possible prison time she would have faced.

Kilgore was followed by Tiki Finlayson and Tish Stephens with 1N3. According to Finlayson, one in three people will be touched by drunk driving and the two women’s stories were connected.

In July 2011, Stephens, who registered a .20 on a blood-alcohol test, drove north in the southbound lane of Highway 153 for 4 1/2 miles before she struck the vehicle of Finlayson’s son, Kevin, head-on. Kevin died Aug. 1, 2011, from his injuries.

“Your choices don’t just affect you. Your choices affect your family, your friends, your schoolmates, co-workers, even complete strangers as in my case,” Finlayson said. “Before July 31, 2011, I had no idea that Tish Stevens even existed, but today we’re moving the lives of students together because of a choice that she made.

“So you have opportunities. Before Tish went out with her friends that could have saved Kevin’s life. She could have made a friend a designated driver. She went to a house party. The homeowners could have taken the keys since they were providing the alcoholic drinks. They could have asked their guests to spend the night, but the guests allowed her and her other friend to leave. They went to a local bar after the party and continued to drink. That friend asked her to pull over because she was driving so badly and being scared and she called someone else to driver her the rest of the way to her friend’s house.”

For Stephens, the consequences of her actions pale in comparison to living with the knowledge she took the life of a 25-year-old.

“That one little choice affected so many people. Tiki’s family, my children, my family, people that I don’t even know. There’s countless that it affected,” she said. “Like I said, now I’m on parole. I’ll be on parole until 2020, after that I will be under state supervision until 2026. I lost my driver’s license for six years. That’s just a few of the consequences that I put up with, but none of those compares to how I have to live with myself for the rest of my life after I took his life for a choice that could have been prevented.”

Finlayson encouraged students to remember the potential ripple effects of their choices.

“... Remember while you’re at prom this weekend that the choices that you make while you’re out having fun with your friends could cost you your life or could cost you your friend’s life or a complete stranger,” she said. “... There are pieces of Kevin everywhere, he’s a part of my everyday life, but there’s also that pain a part of my everyday life because he’s no longer here and it could have been prevented. Our plea to you today is to please take what you’ve seen and heard today to heart, put value back on life and understand that if ‘I get pulled over because I’m drinking I might go to jail,’ well what about if you kill someone? That should be the most important thing that keeps you from getting behind the wheel intoxicated. Don’t become one in three impacted by drunk driving. It’s not a fun club to be in.”

Seniors Atlan Glanton, Clifton Dempsey and Brandon Long said Finlayson and Stephens’ story brought home the reality of drinking and driving.

“I think it was very educational hearing inspiring stories about real-life situations and it makes you rethink everything,” Glanton said.

Saying the movie had good information in it, Dempsey added, “... Just the fact that we had two people who spoke from experience ... that’s what made me think about the effects that my choices have on everybody else around me.”

Long agreed.

“I feel like that’s a real message that a lot of people take lightly. That could be anyone,” he said. “It happens. … Like that lady thinking it wouldn’t be her and just a decision like that, her life changed, she lost her son.”

Sherwin, a 2013 Woodland High graduate, said the message of the film reminded him of his own high school experience.

“... We wanted to make sure that we weren’t the irresponsible class, you know? Whenever a student would drink and drive when we were at a party, we always made sure we either took his keys or someone that was sober drove for him. I think that actually our class, the class of 2013, was really trying to put a nail in the coffin of drinking and driving. That really stems from the year’s before video and just how good of a job Bartow County is doing with keeping us aware,” he said. “... There’s 24 hours in every single day; there’s no reason to risk your life for 30, 40 minutes trying to get home when you can get home the next morning. I think kids our age are too, think they’re bulletproof … the age of immediate gratification, and we want it now and we want to get home now and we want everything now. I think if we can just sit back and if you do decide to drink know that you’re not just putting your life in danger, you’re putting those around you on the road in danger.”