Leading up to prom and graduation season, Huntingdon High School seniors were given a bit of a reality check on the dangers of drinking and driving on April 8 in the HHS gym during a special Prom Promise assembly sponsored by Carroll County Coordinated School Health.
Serving as guest speaker during the program was Blake McMeans of Nashville.
Mostly confined to a wheelchair and only able to stand and walk with considerable effort, McMeans began his presentation by slowly rising from his wheelchair, and, with use of a walker and some help from assistant Tony Lester, he made his way to the podium, one deliberate step at a time.
Then McMeans told the story of how he came to be in this condition. As McMeans detailed, he was one of the nation’s top ranked high school tennis players as a teenager, as well one of the most academically successful and popular students in his high school. As a senior at the age of 17, had been offered and had accepted an athletic-academic scholarship from UT Knoxville with a very promising future ahead of him.
But, according to McMean, he started down the wrong path following the unexpected death of his father, and he turned to alcohol to numb the emotional pain.
Then on the night of Nov. 10, 1994, he went drinking with his future fraternity brothers near the UT campus and made the tragic mistake of trying to drive himself home. Shortly after 2 a.m. and just a half mile from his home, he drove his car into an embankment, striking multiple trees and flipping his car three times. He was airlifted from the scene of the crash to the UT Medical Center, where doctors fought to save his life.
After nearly four months in a coma, McMean regained consciousness, but that was only the beginning of a long struggle that continues to this day.
“It took me seven years just to be able to stand up,” said McMean. “It’s been 28 years of hard work. It’s been a long journey.”
McMean offered a stern warning to HHS graduating Class of 2021.
“I’m here today to share my story with you, and I hope it will inspire you to make better decisions,” he said. “I was 17 then, and I’m 44 now. All these years because of one stupid decision. You don’t want to go through that.”
He also cautioned against texting behind the wheel.
“Don’t text and drive,” he said. “It can wait.”
Since the creation of the Blake McMeans Foundation in 2007, McMeans has spoken to tens of thousands of students, encouraging them to commit to not drink and drive.