Clare Mankin: A sister’s tale

At Red Lion’s Mock Car Crash Assembly, Clare Mankin shares reflections from the crash that took her brother’s life

by Aubrie Wise

Each year Red Lion Area Senior High School holds a mock accident assembly where all the seniors go outside and see the aftermath of driving under the influence. Held May 9, the assembly shows seniors why they should not drive while distracted or under the influence, especially on prom night and when students may be tempted more than ever.

Red Lion senior Clare Mankin stood in the Horn Field parking lot earlier the morning before the mock car crash. She reflected on the site and the reasons she thinks the mock accident should be taken seriously and why people should never drink and drive.

“Nobody understands the severeness of their actions,” Clare said. “Nobody understands the consequences, they all think it’s a joke, and it’s not a joke.”

Clare’s brother, Nick Mankin, died on June 16 in 2015, due to an alcohol-related car accident. He had spent the previous day and night at a house where underage drinking occurred.

Clare spoke of what normal life had been like up until the fatal call that changed their lives. She was shopping for her birthday dinner that day. In the evening the family received the call about the accident. It was supposed to be a festive evening for her and her family.

“My mom got a call on her phone saying Nick had gotten in an accident and that she needed to leave,” Clare said.  “Everyone was really upset, and I remember just worrying that he had broken something and that he would be taken to the hospital. I never imagined he would end up the way he did.”

Clare retells the pain she felt when receiving the news her brother had died.

“I didn’t even cry at first. I just sat there, and my brother just freaked out,” Clare said.  “He just pushed my mom away, and claimed that she was lying and that it wasn’t true. My mom just continued to sob.”

A short time later, however, the terrible news started to sink in.

“I destroyed my room. I literally threw baskets of clothing around and tore things off the walls. It was a horrible, horrible day,” Clare said. “I remember not wanting anyone to touch me, or come near me because then it would be too real.”

“I was praying to God, please just let this not be true, let my brother come home. I need my big brother, Sean is my older brother, but Nick was my big brother. He was my protector.”

In the Horn Field parking lot, the low clouds and heavy mist of the morning seemed to match her recollections. Clare recalled the wreck itself; tears were in her eyes as she recalled the details of the accident and funeral.

“He died in a fiery car crash. It’s just insane to me. He was completely burned. It was terrible; it was awful.”

The single-vehicle crash occurred along Slab Road in Lower Chanceford Township, York County when the car hit a telephone pole, rolled and burst into flames.

“I just remember a couple days after the crash, we went to the site. The car was removed, but there was still debris all over the ground. I remember my sister just crawling around on her hands and feet, just looking around for some evidence and piece of him that might have been missed,” Clare said.

Nick’s funeral was held just a few days later on a Saturday morning.  The line of people waiting to go in and pay their respects stretched around the building.  Inside, his teammates wore football jerseys as they were surrounded by pictures and artwork of Nick’s.

“My mom wasn’t even coherent. She can’t even remember most of it,” Clare said.  “Over 450 people showed up and that was a shock because we didn’t know he knew so many people and touched so many lives.”

The aftermath of Nick’s death changed her family and Clare herself.

“That summer was just the hardest summer in the world. I had so many panic attacks, and my mom wasn’t herself. This was almost four years ago and so it feels like a lifetime ago, but it’s still fresh in your mind,” Clare said.

“It’s hard to comprehend that someone who had always been there to protect you, and just be there for you, pick on you, unknot your necklaces, and help with your homework, is just gone.”

“Your sisters fall off the deep end; your brother falls off the deep end; your mom is no longer your mom. She’s a shell of herself. Your father is always angry, and you just feel so lost, like a hole has been punched inside of you, in your heart and your soul, and there’s nothing that could ever fill that void.”

He took a piece of all of us with him when he left, and in some cases, it might have been the best parts of us that he took. Unless you’ve gone through it, it’s so hard to move on with life when someone you loved so deeply is gone and you have no idea why God would’ve taken him from you.”

The family did not find out until months later that accident was alcohol-related, which added an additional toll on the family.

“ We had no idea. And then you have to go through all these different scenarios of why there was alcohol involved, and all the other key details that no one wants to talk about.”

Now that Clare is about to graduate, she and her family are reminded of the bittersweet moments Nick never got to experience.

“I’m about to graduate, and all I can think about is that,” Clare said. “ Nick never got to graduate. Imagine going to your brother’s graduation and instead of seeing him there with his cap and gown, you see a picture of him from the year before because he never made it.”

I don’t trust people when they say, ‘Yeah, just come to this party with me’ or ‘Let’s go do this,’ and there’s alcohol there. I don’t- I’m not involved in that type of stuff because it scares the life out of me. I never want to end up in a fiery car wreck like my brother.”

Clare ends with a final plea to all the seniors and other drivers about not drinking under the influence.

“Kids don’t understand, and when I say kids, I mean people our age. They don’t understand that you can’t mess around with life, whether it’s yours or your family’s.

You can’t drink and drive; laws exist for a reason. I don’t care how smart you think you are, you’re 16, 17, or 18 years old.

You can’t comprehend what you’re doing.”

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