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AHH 24-Hr. News

IMAGE AHHerald is Online and Serving News
Monday, 30 March 2015
WE ARE BACK!   ATLANTIC HIGHLANDS - The Atlantic Highlands Herald, the nation's first online newspaper, was knocked offline last week, the victim of a Distributed Denial of Service attack.  A Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack is... Read More...
IMAGE Celtic Tribute 5K Benefit Run to be Held in Memory of Fallen Officers
Monday, 30 March 2015
Long Branch, NJ - On Saturday, April 4, 2015 the Jersey Shore Running Club is proud to bring back and host the 24th running of our Spring 5K run, the Celtic Tribute 5K, on the Long Branch promenade, boardwalk, and great lawn, overlooking the scenic... Read More...
IMAGE Red Bank Police Report - March 30, 2015
Monday, 30 March 2015
Red Bank, NJ - The following police report is provided by the Red Bank Police Department.  All subjects are presumed innocent; unless, and until, proven guilty in a court of law. March 19, 2015 – March 26, 2015 CRIMES: Theft occurring at... Read More...
IMAGE Honoring The Lasting Legacy of Lieutenant Dennis W. Zilinski II
Monday, 30 March 2015
PHOTO: Lieutenant Dennis W. Zilinski II Scholarship Memorial Dinner Dance on May 16 Will Fund Youth Scholarships, Honor Veterans & Preserve Loving Memories Of Fallen Hero MIDDLETOWN, NJ - For the members of Middletown Reformed Church, it... Read More...
MCSPCA Celebrates 21 Years Of Paws Walking For A Cause!
Monday, 30 March 2015
The MONMOUTH COUNTY SPCA ANNOUNCES 21st Annual Spring Dog Walk & Pet Fair Saturday, April 25, 2015 Eatontown, NJ - The Monmouth County SPCA announced today that the 21st annual Spring Dog Walk & Pet Fair is scheduled for Saturday, April 25,... Read More...

Columns

IMAGE Making Homes for Fish Hawks
by Joe Reynolds
Tuesday, 31 March 2015
Like an old fashioned barn raising, about 15 volunteers  with the Bayshore Regional Watershed Council came together on a clear but chilly Sunday... Read More...
IMAGE Of Food Trucks, Boardwalks, and New Development
by Dennis
Monday, 30 March 2015
Summer is just around the corner, and for those who live at the Jersey Shore, that means two things are guaranteed: the mass influx of tourists is... Read More...
IMAGE Clinton's Delusional Defense of Email
by Jack Archibald
Saturday, 21 March 2015
Last week, former Secretary of State and prospective Democrat President nominee Hillary Clinton channeled her inner H.L. Mencken.  By... Read More...
IMAGE Review - McFarland USA
by David Prown
Wednesday, 18 March 2015
It is common knowledge that I'm a big fan of true sports movies regarding stories that are under the radar and rarely been told. So when I started... Read More...
IMAGE Musings from a Migraneur
by Anne Mikolay
Tuesday, 17 March 2015
I've suffered from migraines for so many years, by now I ought to understand how they work. I don't. In fact, though one might consider me the... Read More...

Upcoming Events

Wed Apr 01 @ 6:30PM -
Middletown Township Planning Board
Wed Apr 01 @ 8:00PM -
Highlands Mayor & Council Mtg
Thu Apr 02 @ 7:30PM -
Highlands Zoning Board Meeting
Fri Apr 03 @ 2:00PM - 07:00PM
Income Tax Help - Union Beach
Mon Apr 06 @ 8:00PM -
Middletown Township Committee Workshop

rbr_drunk_driving_1Alison Wheeler calls it “DJ’s tree” the nearly ten-year old makeshift memorial that marks the spot D. J. Wheeler of Middletown lost his life at 18 years old, flung from the back seat of a car driven by a drunken driver. Alison, D.J.’s oldest sister and a Red Bank Charter School teacher, spoke to RBR students during the kick-off to Project Prom, which promotes wise choices.  Project prom has been conducted for the past nine years to try to prevent tragedies that befell the Wheeler family.

Little Silver, NJ -  Alison Wheeler is a third grade teacher at the Red Bank Charter School.  She may have been addressing the older brothers and sisters of some of her students when she spoke to Red Bank Regional’s (RBR) graduating class during Project Prom week.  But it was a sister who talked and wept to the brothers and sisters of others on how her family’s life was forever changed when a drunken driver took her beloved brother DJ’s life nearly 10 years ago. 

On the giant screen behind her, video was reliving the 2003 Middletown High School South pre- prom pictures. A very handsome, tall, and dimple faced D.J. was seen beaming as he boarded the bus to the prom with his date. His mom could be seen whispering something in his ear.  Alison revealed that her mother was muttering yet another futile plea for him not to acquire his threatened tattoo during prom weekend.  DJ would return home safe from prom weekend with a Celtic cross tattooed on his leg. 

The family was proudly Irish-American with all its rich cultural and religious traditions.  Christmas was their favorite holiday, but no one loved it more than DJ.  The Wheeler kids, Alison, her younger sister Erin and DJ, would make homemade decorations each year and decorate their family Christmas tree. DJ even got a part-time job helping other families pick out their trees at a local tree farm. 

Then one fatal November night, six months after prom and high school graduation, DJ, who wasn’t drinking, got into the car of teenager who was.  Three boys were ejected from the car, which had to be traveling at very high speed on Middletown-Lincroft Road. Only DJ was killed.  Now a Celtic cross tombstone from Ireland adorns his grave, and the Wheelers do not put up Christmas trees anymore-- not yet.  The drunk driver was given a three-year sentence for killing her little brother, who played high school football and hockey and was attending college to maybe become a harbor pilot as his dad.  Instead, he is forever 18, and the Wheeler family is left to live a life sentence of regret. This was the powerful message that Allison hoped would resonate with other 18 year-olds during the week of happy prom preparation-- that one mistake could alter your life forever.

For nine years RBR has held a week of programs to prevent similar tragedies which, according to RBR school resource officer Robert Chenoweth, spike around prom time. A mock crash is usually held with the participation of local first responders. This year’s event was cancelled for inclement weather, but several compelling videos were shown to the senior class followed by poignant speakers, including Alison, who were very potent in delivering their message.  Area defense attorney Mitch Ansell detailed the penalties for drinking and driving in the state of New Jersey.  He punctuated his remarks with the sad tales of clients currently serving prison time for such offenses, their lives in shambles. Funeral Director Jerry Tilden whose own son graduated from RBR, has been involved in similar prom presentations in several states since the day he responded to a horrific crash in Connecticut, which took lives of three young ladies. (He explained that funeral personnel are often asked to respond to such tragedies acting as the representative of the coroner’s office.)

“Just think,” he told the students, “Who is going to answer the door at two or three in the morning when the police come to tell your family that you are dead?”

Programs continue throughout the week with police officers from Little Silver visiting all senior classes during gym and or health class and detailing the fines and penalties for drunk driving and sharing national statistics with the students. Little Silver Officers Chenoweth and Pete Gibson also orchestrate a simulated drunk driving course using golf carts and fatal-vision goggles. Students perform exercises while wearing the goggles which simulate a vision handicap similar to intoxication.

Officer Chenoweth states, “We conduct this program every year around this time to reinforce the importance of making the right decisions so as not to become part of the national statistics.”

Sadly, the RBR Class of 2013 is less immune to such personal tragedy.  Their immortal teenage armor has been tarnished this school year after losing two of their own to sudden death from natural causes. Still, as Little Silver Officer Pete Gibson told them, “In a perfect world no one would drink under 21 years of age, but this isn’t a perfect world. And if you do, you just can’t get behind the wheel of a car or in anyone’s car who is drinking.”