Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate March 2001

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The trip I took to the morgue was an enlightening and uplifting experience. I don't thrive on death, but used the opportunity given to me to reaffirm my own life and the choices I have made. In the weeks leading up to my trip, I was joking around with friends on how cool it was going to be. We laughed and made jokes about bringing a camera or being able to take pictures with the bodies that I saw. When I got there my mood quickly changed when the reality of the purpose of this agency came into view.

The first part of the class was having a meeting with Mr. Javier Jimenez. He is a detective for the coroners' office of Los Angeles. He is a very understanding man who talks to young people in a way that doesn't condescend to them. He seems to have a good understanding of how young people feel.

He was very stern though and he got his point across very well. He knew why we were all there, which ones were troublemakers and which people were honest. I was glad he was our director.

We watched a slide show directed by Mr. Jimenez after his speech. The slide show contained pictures of fatal accidents in the Los Angeles County. There were very gruesome pictures of decapitated corpses, photos of smashed cars and images of crushed vehicles. This really showed the horror of drunk driving accidents. These pictures really made my stomach turn. There were burnt bodies that could not even be identified. These were the hardest to look at. They made me feel bad for that person's family who couldn't' even see their loved one for a last time.

The next part of the class was a tour of the actual morgue. This included a trip through the autopsy area. This was the worst part for me. The first room had an autopsy being performed on man who had just died. The first thing they do is make a thing called a Y incision. This allows them to break the breastplate open and gets at all the organs in the body. The pieces of skin are folded back across the chest to expose the entire chest cavity. Then the breastplate is sawed off and removed. With the breastplate removed the coroner can remove each organ without damaging it. Each organ is disconnected and removed from the body. Then each organ is weighed and recorded. This is a very disgusting process and I almost lost my lunch when I saw the lump of intestines lying on the table. The next thing they do is saw open the skull and expose the brain. This is carefully weighed and examined and then recorded. I couldn't believe that they were ripping the brains out of someone who was not alive.

The next thing that I saw was a child lying on a table in the hall. The only way I knew that it was a child is the size of the body. Other than that, it was burned way beyond all recognition. I could not believe that this charred body was that of a child. This reaffirmed my disbelief in god for I think a god would not let this happen to an innocent child. His body was charred into a crippling mess. I feel the most sorry for the child's parents because they will never see their son smile or laugh again.

The most I learned from this day was that you cant take life for granted and you must live everyday to its fullest. It is hard enough to survive in this world without doing stupid things like breaking laws and endangering your own life while driving. I will from now on be a safe driver and a courteous member of this society. Life is too short to be angry with everyone else.