FAMILY: Experiencing worst fears


Estefany Nunez

Parents met the night before the memorial for a presentation by Every 15 Minutes. There, they were able to ask questions about their children whom they had not seen since the crash scene.

In the middle of the night, Granger Dinwiddie looked out through the blinds of the front window to the driveway to make sure his son Jalend’s car was parked there.

The idea of what was depicted earlier that day during the Every 15 Minutes assembly becoming a reality is what makes him so on edge.

“Even though I knew what was going on, it just seemed so quiet,” he said.

Questions began to run through his mind that night his son didn’t come home, wondering where he was and why his car wasn’t parked in the driveway. Dinwiddie then had to remember that his son was “dead” and “wouldn’t be coming home ever again”.

This reality that the families of the participants had to face was one that made many of them step back and realize the magnitude of the situation at that would be their reality for the next two days.

When junior Patricia McGinnis went home that night, she said she felt like something was wrong when she didn’t hear her twin sister Kelley’s, one of the living dead, voice before they fell asleep, something that has become commonplace for her every night.

“It was kind of like a piece of my heart was missing,” she said. “Something wasn’t there, and she wasn’t there.”
Dinwiddie couldn’t shake the feeling of something wrong that night. “When you get out of that pattern or routine, as a parent, that little inner voice is saying ‘something is not right.’”

During the second day, at the assembly, seeing her sister walking down and placing a black rose on the coffin made it even more real for McGinnis. “I almost started crying because she could have really been dead,” she said.

The mother of Joel Castillo said she felt terrible watching her son sit in an orange jumpsuit bound in handcuffs and ankle shackles.

“I cried,” she said in Spanish. “All I could think about was ‘I never want to see my kids in this situation.’”

In the letters they wrote to their children, Castillo said she felt very emotional. “I don’t even remember because I was crying so much,” she said. “Just to imagine if he would’ve died.”

Dinwiddie had a difficult time writing his goodbye letter because the memories he made with his son began to surface.

In his letter, he said, “You still made a poor choice by going along with the peer pressure.” He was disappointed to see his son, in his character, make this bad choice.

In a real scenario, Dinwiddie remembered when his son and some friends asked to spend the night in San Francisco after spending time at the beach. As soon as they got back to town, Dinwiddie said his son called him and expressed his own disappointment in one of his friends.

“The car that he was in, that kid, when they were at the beach, drank,” he said. “My son would not let him drive. He said, ‘give me the keys, I’m driving.’”

While Jalend showed good judgement in this real life situation, the role he portrayed did not have that same mindset.

In Dinwiddie’s letter, he expressed how it disappointed and saddened him that in one case his son made the right choice but the character he portrayed did the exact opposite, and that decision cost him his life.