Mother shares story of student tragedy
By JASON MOON, Assistant Editor
Twenty minutes after her daughter left for prom, Shannon Nees received a phone call that she'll never forget.
She was informed that her daughter and prom date were in an automobile accident while heading to the festivities.
"This was 'we're excited. We're excited to get there,'" Nees told students in the packed Greencastle High School auditorium Monday. She was referring to how excited the students were to go to prom.
Nees, a sixth-grade teacher at Central Elementary School, was at the school Monday stressing safety. She speaks annually to schools within the county about her experiences regarding her daughter.
Her daughter Brittney, was only a freshman at the time and was one of three passengers in a vehicle driven by then Cloverdale senior Matt Johnson, who died in the accident.
On Monday, Nees spoke to the GHS students concerning their prom, which is scheduled for Saturday.
She was one of several featured speakers following a mock disaster drill, set up by the Putnam County Safe School Committee as well as law enforcement agencies and various other emergency agency officials.
Even though the accident was close to 10 years ago, the attentive students listened to Nees' every word.
"Eight years doesn't ease the pain any," Nees said. "It does not go away."
On Monday, Nees discussed receiving the call about the accident. She said her daughter always wore her seatbelt, but on that day, she did not, fearing it might wrinkle her dress.
She said only one of the passengers had a seatbelt on.
The auditorium stood silent as Nees told the students what the doctor told her when she could finally see her daughter. The doctors had told Nees that her daughter might be unrecognizable.
Nees said her daughter changed "immensely" following the accident, saying she was in the top 10 academically in her class prior to the accident. However, Brittney eventually recovered from the accident, graduating from Marian College last spring.
Monday's disaster drill involved several Greencastle students acting out a scenario where one student had been drinking and crashed into another vehicle filled with students on their way to prom.
But despite the scenario Monday, Nees said it's still difficult to deal with.
"This is a good reenactment," she said, "but they can't get the reality there.I know this looked real out here, but everybody gets to go home."
Following Nees' turn on the microphone, Indiana State Police trooper Charlie Boller, who emceed the event, said her account was "real life."
"All it takes is one time," Boller told the students.
Nees will also speak at South Putnam at 2 p.m., April 27.