Sultana High School principal Tracy Marsh doesn't need the Every 15 Minutes program to tell him about the dangers of teenaged drinking and driving: He's lived it.


It happened when he was an 18-year-old high school senior.


"On graduation night, I was throwing a 'gathering' ... where two of my close friends, they were twins, they were brothers, they were on the way to my party and they were intoxicated," Marsh said on Thursday.


Marsh's party was an outdoor one, on the banks of the Shenandoah River. Around midnight, a classmate pulled up to tell him that the brothers had been in an accident.


"In the hills of Virginia, when you run off the road, it's not like there's pavement," Marsh said. "They were decapitated."


Marsh's high school was a small one, compared to Sultana, with only 500 students in the entire student body. The deaths sent a shockwave through the community, one that still reverberates today; Marsh's high school reunions are sparsely attended and the conversation inevitably turns to the pair the class lost, just hours after graduating.


"It's something that at that time, at 18 years old, you don't think it'll happen," he said. "It's my hope that none of our kids have to live with such an event that, 30 years later, is ever-present in my mind."


Marsh hopes that none of his students have to experience what he did that summer.


"Parties do occur. Bad decisions are made. And we have to live with those decisions, just like I have to do every day."


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.