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AHH 24-Hr. News

IMAGE Public Comment on Relocation of Sandy Hook Maintenance Facilities
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
PHOTO: In the days after the storm, Sandy Hook's maintenance buildings were only accessible by boat.  NPS PHOTO by Suzanne McCarthy SANDY HOOK,... Read More...
Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week - Sept 22-26
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
Schools Throughout the State Planning Festivities Surrounding Jersey Fresh Produce TRENTON, NJ – New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H.... Read More...
Seaside Heights Fire Department Receives $35,000 Grant
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
SEASIDE HEIGHTS, N.J. – Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation in conjunction with the Leary Firefighters Foundation is supporting the ongoing... Read More...
IMAGE Flea Market at Ideal Beach on Sept 20
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
MIDDLETOWN, NJ - Preparation is under way as the Ideal Beach Community Association gets ready to host its 5th annual flea event, ‘IBCA Fall Flea,... Read More...
IMAGE Middletown Police Seek Witnesses to Fatal Pedestrian/Motor Vehicle Accident
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
MIDDLETOWN, NJ - Today, September 16, 2014 at approximately 3:20am the Middletown Police Department responded to a fatal motor vehicle collision... Read More...

Columns

IMAGE Uncertain Trumpet-Call
by Woody Zimmerman
Tuesday, 16 September 2014
On the idle hill of summer,Sleepy with the flow of streams,Far I hear the steady drummerDrumming like a noise in dreams.Far and near and low and... Read More...
IMAGE Hoy for the Hall of Fame
by Daniel J. Vance
Saturday, 13 September 2014
I guess every year you'll just have to get used to reading about William Elsworth “Dummy” Hoy, a deaf professional baseball player from... Read More...
IMAGE 9/11 - An Historic Shift
by Jack Archibald
Friday, 12 September 2014
Wherever you walk in lower Manhattan on September 11, there is always some quiet reflection going on.  Most of the workers are quietly going... Read More...
IMAGE Skewed View - September 12, 2014
by Tom Brennan
Friday, 12 September 2014
Here's a handy info graph that shows what diseases kills most of us and how much we give to those diseases: http://bit.ly/1lLNoKL "12 Year-old... Read More...
IMAGE Could Someone Else Pray?
by George Hancock-Stefan
Thursday, 11 September 2014
E. M. Bounds starts his book on prayer by telling us that the world will never know the things that were altered through prayer - Elijah praying and... Read More...

Upcoming Events

Wed Sep 17 @ 9:30AM - 10:00AM
Baby Story Time Ages 10 – 24 months
Wed Sep 17 @ 9:30AM - 11:00AM
Gymboree Play and Music! - AH Library
Wed Sep 17 @10:30AM - 10:50AM
Toddler Story Time Ages 2 & 3
Wed Sep 17 @11:00AM -
Making "Segmented" Wooden Bowls
Thu Sep 18 @ 3:15PM - 03:45PM
School Age Programs Grades K and up

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.”