I remember the first time I was exposed to the idea of imminent death. The idea that none of us escape it and the facts that it would come at anytime for anybody. My Dad was showing me his year book. The good ol’ fashioned hair do’s and dapper attire. What an era to grow up in and one that I admired. Everybody seemed so well cared for and maintained. Flipping through the pages my Dad would point out old friends potential girlfriends and any other memory that he wanted to bring back into life. Then there were of course the “cool kids” of the bunch. The ones who looked like they walked straight out of Johnny Depp’s Crybaby so I needed to know more. Every teenage girl’s heart has the ability to beat out of control with all those hormones. Who doesn’t appreciate a beautiful face. Those kids my Dad told me never made it out of high school. They were drinking and driving with six of them in the car. 4 boys, 2 girls. Took a corner too fast and lost control. All perished in the fiery inferno serving as a reminder to all that maybe, just maybe rules were in place to protect us. This brought to life the idea of a curse in our little town who would take a few youth every few years to serve as a reminder what happens when you live life too fast.
Knowing that it was going to happen during some time during my school career it was almost like I was waiting for it. When it came to drinking and driving I was in the habit of either driving alone or calling my mom. I know who downplays drinking and driving. Small time minds, small town thinking. When you literally live 5 minutes down an ol’ country road you can rationalize anything. Plus everybody was doing it. And besides driving alone almost guaranteed I would never crash. What lesson could be learned from little ol’ me driving home from after a party. Aren’t we all invincible till it happens to us? Don’t most of us say, “I can’t believe this is happening! Please make it not be true!” For those directly affected who’s children paid the price tayo teach the ultimate lesson you would hope that your children aren’t the ones dying in vain.
For all the waiting I did it never did happen. Nobody died in my Grad class. Not during that time anyways. Then it happened. Once, not twice to my sister’s Grad class. There are always the Grad parties that occur before the first day of class. At least that is how we did it anyways. I remember hearing about the party out at the Damn but decided to forgo the time so that the next up’s could party. To me it was a time to let loose and get to know each other as the year of hard work was about to unfold. It is hard to know when to start the story but I will just jump in and speak of the events that I know. Two popular, athletically gifted teens had brought their dirt bikes with them on a camping trip aka bush party. At these parties keys are always collected but I guess because they were dirt bikes they still had the keys. Deciding to go on a rip to the Damn where it was all light up they failed to see the parked car on the corner and the bike was air born. All that happens next is all here say but I do believe it in my heart to be true. Between the two their was only one helmet and the driver of the bike insisted that his best friend wore it. When the bike came crushing down the helmet of the passenger actually cracked on impact to give you an idea of how badly they crashed. They say the driver died instantly with the passenger holding on. Now to give you an idea of how small of a town we are there are about 10,000 spread out over a very large space so getting medical attention did take some time. When the boys arrived at the hospital the working nurse’s on shift were their mom’s. Again I am almost certain that both mom’s were working that night as their sons came wheeling in. The driver I believe was DOA and the passenger was barely holding on. What happens next seems almost to incredible to believe. When he opened his eyes and asked his mom about his best friend his mom relayed to him that he had taken his last breath. In those after moments of realization sinking in the passenger decided to join his best friend. Together in eternity they went on to save over a dozen lives. I still think about their time here on Earth from time to time. I used to sit in the outfield and watch them with my best friend we were in fact boy crazy after all.
The second time happened in the fall of the next year. Right after graduation but before the year books were printed. This is a very important fact because the image I have of her is of a sweet gentle cherub in her Grad dress with a smile that could light up the world. She was a close friend of my sister and her presence was just short of amazing. The fact that her light went out is something devastating to us all. As she was getting ready for her last day of swim class where she was the instructor she was late and was just out the door when the phone rang. Should she go back and get it or no keep going she was late and didn’t want to keep her kids waiting. Speed was probably a factor and back then none of us had cell phones. As she rushed off to class the gifts she had bought the children fell from the back seat. As she turned to retrieve the present she was hit by a large truck (I have no idea if it was garbage or cement). I still cry when I think of her because if she would have grabbed that call her life would still be here with us and not gone. What her existence has taught me is to slow down in every moment. There is no place more important where you find yourself to be. I am told that while in the hospital they told her friends and family who were waiting that she had only broken her wrist. There was however a mix up in charts and our friend had most definitely passed on.
There are lessons to be learned in our tragedy if only we could embrace the moment for all that it is. Although painful in the memories there is some joy too. I get to go back to a time where their lives mattered and bring them back to life.