Ethan Steinquest/Macon County Times MCHS seniors look at photographs of the scene of Wind's car crash and her trip to the hospital in the aftermath.

Ethan Steinquest/Macon County Times

MCHS seniors look at photographs of the scene of Wind's car crash and her trip to the hospital in the aftermath.

Since their classmate Eli Borders' fatal drag racing accident in June 2018, Macon County High School's seniors have stayed focused on road safety and became Tennessee's first students to attend Alliance Highway Safety's Choices Matter program on Monday.

Partnering with the Tennessee Highway Safety Office, the group brought author and former University of Tennessee diver Bailey Wind to MCHS to share the lasting impact of losing her boyfriend (Christopher Stewart) and best friend (Deanna Rivers) in a crash.

"After the crash my world went black, and everything I knew was gone forever. In a matter of 10 seconds, because of somebody else's bad choice," Wind said.

A drunk driver traveling 90 mph collided with Stewart's back left bumper, causing the vehicle to roll across a median and strike a tree roof-first. Stewart and Rivers were killed instantly, while Wind and passenger Matthew Hardy were left seriously injured.

"For over 20 minutes, they looked for my body until they heard a tapping noise from where I was trapped in the car," Wind said. "They told me my right arm was stuck between Chris's body and the dashboard and had two surgeons minutes away from amputating it."

Although Wind was able to free her arm without amputation, the crash left lasting effects both physically and mentally. Since the accident, she has been wearing false teeth and had titanium plating put into her jaws and neck.

"Mentally has been the hardest part," Wind said. "I struggle with anxiety and have daily panic attacks. Some days I have no motivation, and I'm dealing with severe PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I'll black out and punch holes in my walls, and I don't really understand what causes it."

Wind's athletic career as a diver was initially her outlet for those emotions, but she had to retire during her freshman year at Tennessee because of the risk it posed to her body.

"Not only did (the driver) take my best friend and boyfriend, my physical and mental health, but he took the thing I used to get away from it all," Wind said. "I was able to turn a negative into a positive and started coaching kids, and I graduated in 2017 with a degree in communications."

Wind noted that the driver himself has been affected by the accident, as his 5-15 year prison sentence has kept him from spending time with his wife and young children.

Multiple students in attendance were affected by Wind's story, including Tyler Rush and Drew Stafford.

"I'm kind of speechless," Rush said. "To hear what she's been through was really thought-provoking and tough to hear. It's a strong reminder to make the right choices, and I hope the good Lord can help everyone have the common sense to do that."

For Stafford, the main impact came from seeing photos of the crash and its aftermath during the presentation.

"Seeing what happened really makes you think about the decisions you make in and out of a vehicle," Stafford said. "It's important to always be smart and do what you know you're supposed to … even if it's not something that's cool or in style."

The Choices Matter campaign launched in 2015 and has made stops at hundreds of schools across the U.S., bringing a variety of guest speakers along.

"Our other programs have gone very well," Dustin Skilbred, Alliance Highway Safety's vice president of operations, said. "We're trying to stay in front of students with a positive message that will resonate with them."

Macon County High School's schedule lined up well with Alliance Highway Safety's, and the program coincided with continued efforts to honor and remember Borders.

"It can be difficult to imagine when you're a 16-18 year old kid what kind of impact your actions have," Skilbred said. "We want kids to focus on highway safety and making good decisions."

Wind told students in attendance that leaving a positive impact is as easy as leaving a negative one, and he encouraged them to be mindful of that.

"Use Uber, use Lyft," Wind said. "I'm sure your parents would rather come pick you up at 4 a.m. than have you get behind the wheel drunk. Speak up and be an advocate. Take those keys from your friends. Use the one life you have to make the right choices."