Speaker gives HRHS students tips on making good decisions

  • Above, motivational speaker Cara Filler hugs sophomore Taylor Morrow after Filler’s talk Thursday at Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton. Filler’s identical twin sister, Mairin, was killed in a high-speed car crash in 1994. Right, juniors Collin Flematti and Neslinhan Ibic, from left, and sophomore Sule Cukur listen to Filler’s talk. Above, motivational speaker Cara Filler hugs sophomore Taylor Morrow after Filler’s talk Thursday at Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton. Filler’s identical twin sister, Mairin, was killed in a high-speed car crash in 1994. Right, juniors Collin Flematti and Neslinhan Ibic, from left, and sophomore Sule Cukur listen to Filler’s talk.

  • Motivational speaker Cara Filler addresses students Thursday at Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Junior Collin Flematti, left, junior Neslinhan Ibic and sophomore Sule Cukur listen to motivational speaker Cara Filler discuss loosing her identical twin sister, Mairin, who was killed in a high speed car crash in 1994. The talk, hosted May 18, 2017 by Students Against Destructive Decisions, was held at Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Motivational speaker Cara Filler addresses students May 18, 2017 at Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton. Filler's identical twin sister, Mairin, was killed in a high speed car crash in 1994. Filler's talk, hosted by Students Against Destructive Decisions, focused on making good choices. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Junior Collin Flematti, left, junior Neslinhan Ibic and sophomore Sule Cukur laugh in response to a joke told by motivational speaker Cara Filler May 18, 2017 during a Students Against Destructive Decisions-hosted talk at Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

@kate_ashworth
Published: 5/18/2017 11:25:14 PM

WESTHAMPTON — Students filling the auditorium at Hampshire Regional High School closed their eyes as motivational speaker Cara Filler asked them to think of the most important person in their life.

Many friends and family members popped into the their heads, students say.

“It’s hard to have one person come to mind,” freshman Mason Willard, 15, said.

But then Filler said to imagine them gone because of one bad decision.

Then she began to play a recording, with a woman at the scene of a car crash saying “I love you so much. Mairin, you’re going to be fine. The ambulance is here.” Someone pulls her away and the woman’s voice trembles. “That’s my sister.”

Mairin was Filler’s twin sister. And those were the exact words she said to her in 1994 when Mairin was involved in a car crash that took her life.

For Filler, the most important person in her life was Mairin. They did everything together. They worked at the same job, took each others’ tests at school and played tricks using their identical traits.

And when Mairin died, Filler said, “half of me went with her.”

Mairin Johnston died just a day after the twins’ 18th birthday. Cara and Mairin had just gone to the mall and Mairin decided to leave with her boyfriend. They’d been dating for a week, she said. He drove a black sports car with a T-roof, tight suspension and a radar detector — and he liked to drive fast, Filler said.

They went 100 mph in a 30-mph zone. Filler followed in the car behind, thinking it was ridiculous to be driving off so fast. The boyfriend lost control of the car, slid down a hill, hit a median and slid into another car. The car was bent at 90 degrees where Mairin was sitting.

“She was wearing her seat belt. There were airbags in the car,” Filler said.

There’s only one thing that could have saved Mairin, and thousands of other teens across the country, Filler said.

“It’s called a different choice,” she said.

Filler said the boyfriend survived the accident. He was fined $150 and later spent 15 days in jail.

After her sister died, Filler made it her mission to share her story and encourage students to be safe. She started talking. Her first talk was to her high school just months after Mairin’s death. Filler said it was short and mostly crying.

Since then she has become one of the top motivational speakers in the world. Just over the 2016-17 school year, she has visited more than 120 schools.

Her main message: Make good choices. Don’t drink and drive. Don’t speed.

In 2015, 2,333 teens in the United States ages 16-19 were killed in motor vehicle crashes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meaning approximately six teens die each day from motor vehicle injuries.

And for Filler, every school she has visited has lost at least one student.

She has four tips (that start with the letter “p”) on how to get someone to pull over when you feel unsafe: Say you need to pee, you need to puke and — for girls — you’re on your period. The fourth is more serious: Call your parents.

Willard said imagining the death of a family member is tough to wrap your head around, but Filler brought a new perspective. Others say she was inspirational.

Students lingered in the auditorium to talk with Filler one-on-one.

Sarah Jablonski, the school’s Students Against Destructive Decisions adviser, said Filler is the only speaker that students have stayed behind to talk to.

Some students had stories similar to hers, some thanked her, some gave hugs. Filler said another had recently lost her brother and she talked with her about the grieving process. Jablonski said many are also still grieving the loss of a classmate earlier this year.

Filler said her presentation takes students on an emotional roller coaster — going up and down, funny and sad — but she never leaves the students at the bottom.

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.




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