By DAN TOMASELLO
LYNNFIELD — Motivational speaker Cara Filler returned to Lynnfield High School to discus the dangers of reckless driving in a moving, yet humorous presentation on Thursday, March 19.
Filler’s latest appearance at LHS was her fifth visit to the high school. She made the most recent stop to LHS as part of her Drive to Inspire Tour. The assembly, which was sponsored by the high school PTO, discussed the dangers of reckless driving as well as outline ways to prevent it with LHS sophomores and juniors.
The assembly began when Filler asked students to close their eyes as she showed a video of a car crash. She asked students to think about the people closest to them while listening to the horrific sounds of the crash in the bone-chilling video.
Filler’s identical twin sister, Mairin, was killed in a high-speed car crash in Vancouver, British Columbia the day after her 18th birthday. In order to introduce her sister to LHS students, Filler showed a slide show consisting of pictures of herself and Mairin, which included a picture of the car crash and Mairin’s grave.
Filler said she “loved being a twin.” She said she and Mairin used to enjoy playing jokes on each other on April Fools Day. The twins used to enjoy playing basketball together and Filler jokingly said they were six feet tall when they were 11 years old.
After telling several humorous stories about Mairin, Filler recalled the day when Mairin passed away. After Filler and Mairin were both interviewed for a job at a Vancouver-area Disney Store, Mairin’s boyfriend picked her up in a brand new sports car. Filler said she had no idea that moment was going to change her life forever.
“I thought my sister getting into that car was no big deal,” said Filler. “I told them I would meet them at home but I never met them at home. Three blocks was all it took.”
Filler said Mairin’s boyfriend was driving over 110 miles per hour in a 35 mph zone. She said Mairin’s boyfriend lost control of the car, crossed a median and slammed into another car driving up a hill, which killed Mairin instantly.
“She was wearing her seatbelt and there were airbags in the car,” said Filler.
Filler, who was driving behind Mairin at the time of crash, said she watched first responders tear the car apart in order to get her sister out, but said, “There was nothing they could do for her.” She recalled being put in the back of ambulance, tied to a stretcher and being told by paramedics about the tragic news.
“I couldn’t understand why I was being tied down,” said Filler. “But they tied me down because they were about to the tell me the worst thing that happened in my life. They said, ‘I’m sorry Cara, your sister didn’t make it.’”
Filler said Mairin’s boyfriend managed to walk away from the crash, which she attributed to luck. She said the boyfriend was given a $150 speeding ticket after the crash and was charged a year-and-half later. She said he served only 15 days in jail.
“My sister’s life was only worth 15 days in jail and $150 bucks,” said Filler.
Filler said she and Mairin were scheduled to attend the same college after the twin sisters were both awarded basketball scholarships. After Mairin was killed in the crash, Filler said she never went to that college and all she wanted to do afterward was stay in bed.
Filler said she is “sick and tired” of car crashes being the number one killer of America’s youth. She also said she has grown tired the term of car accidents because they happen so frequently.
“When a plane crashes and people die, we don’t call it a plane accident,” said Filler. “We lose more people in one day in car crashes than we do year round, worldwide in plane crashes. But we still use the word accidents because it happens every day.”
Filler said the purpose of the assembly was to encourage LHS students to make better choices. She said a number of decisions adolescents make is based on “peer pressure” and “testosterone.” She said if Mairin made a different choice than getting into her boyfriend’s car, she would still be here.
“I hope you will get something valuable from this presentation that way you won’t be a statistic on a piece of paper,” said Filler. “Your choices can change everything.”
Filler said it’s important for adolescents to avoid taking risks such as driving a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol or driving with someone who is excessively speeding. She encouraged LHS students to “stick their necks out for their friends” whenever they have the opportunity. She encouraged students to let their friends stay over their house if they have been drinking. She also encouraged students to take their friends’ keys if they have been drinking. She noted putting car keys in a Ziploc bag and placing them in the back of a toilet is a good place to hide them.
“I am a safety spaz,” said Filler.
Filler also urged students to do whatever they can to force an erratic driver to pull over.
“There is not a parent in Lynnfield who wants to receive a knock on the door in the middle of the night,” said Filler. “People ask me all the time why I didn’t become a cop. I don’t want to tell parents their child is never coming home.”
In the years after Mairin’s death, Filler moved to the U.S. but said she still considers herself to be a “proud Canadian girl.” In addition to her family and the school presentations she conducts around the country, Filler said there are two things that keep her going and maintain her sanity.
“Every day since Mairin died, I look for something to be grateful for and I always try to find something to make me laugh,” said Filler.
Filler said she has stayed in contact with former LHS students she met during prior presentations via Twitter. While she said there will come a time when she no longer gives presentations to schools, Filler said LHS will always have a special place in her heart.
“If Lynnfield ever calls me after I stop speaking, I’ll come back here,” said Filler. “This is like my second home in the Boston area.”
Before the presentation concluded, Filler had one last piece of advice for LHS students.
“Stick up for your friends,” she said. “Be good to each other and show each other how much you care. All of your lives are worth fighting for.”
After Filler concluded her presentation, High School Assistant Principal Kevin Cyr personally thanked Filler for coming to LHS once again and for the PTO sponsoring her visit.
“Cara truly is an inspiration,” said Cyr. “I know for a fact this presentation has had a lasting impact on our kids. There is always a place for you at Lynnfield High.”
Cyr also had one last piece of advice for LHS students.
“When you know some of your friends are making poor choices, please look out for them,” said Cyr.
After Cyr concluded his remarks at the end of the presentation, a large number of LHS students came up to Filler and thanked her for telling her story.