You may have seen this story on the news - 4 football players from Mainland High school in New Jersey died last weekend when the car they were riding in flipped over. There were 4 more kids in the car with them who survived. It made national news. I have a lot of friends still in New Jersey, many of them are high school teachers. Since the accident, I have seen a lot of facebook posts about it. A couple of my friends either work with a parent or know someone who knows the parents of the kids who died. I have been following the story, watching the facebook page started for them and reading the newspapers.
You can follow the story here
Two of the funerals are today, so the papers all have pictures of the lines outside the churches and funeral homes. Thousands of teenagers waiting to say goodbye to their friends. This brings back memories for me and breaks my heart because I know how those kids feel.
When I was a teenager I lost two friends in accidents. Cathy Marchetta died on April 5, 1991 in a car accident. We were juniors in high school. Bill Lorge died on June 7, 1993 when he was hit by a car. We had just finished our freshman year in college. I remember their viewings and funerals as if they just happened yesterday. I remember the shock at the news and specifically where I was and how I heard. I remember how all our friends just wanted to be together. I remember how our parents just wanted us to be home. I remember the tears, the wailing cries of Cathy and Bill's parents at their viewings. I remember the silence with which our teachers greeted us afterwards - not sure what to say or what to do. They were trying to manage their own grief. I remember the tears cried by my male friends, the strong, silent ones, who broke down in the middle of class - you expect that from your girlfriends, but not so much the boys. I remember seeing Bill's parents years later and not knowing what to say.
Its been over 20 years since Cathy died and close to 20 years since Bill died. I think of the two of them often. I think of them always on the days they died. I thought of them when I graduated college, at our high school reunion, when I got married, when I see other high school friends having kids. I think of them when I hear about high school kids dying and a hundred other times for really no reason at all.
I think of these kids from Mainland now, who are mourning their friends. I know that 20 years from now, they will still miss them. I know that they will never totally heal from the things they will see and hear during these times. And the ones who were in the car and didn't die, I know there will be times when they wish they did.
Without a doubt, I can say that all my high school friends know these same things. I know they are all reliving those days, years ago, when we were the ones standing in line to say goodbye. When we were doing the unthinkable.
These kids died in a tragic accident. There were 8 of them in the car. The reports say the driver wasn't distracted, but anyone who has had 8 people in the car, and lets be honest - we all have, knows that is distracting. It is just stupid. It hits home because we have all done stupid things, both when we were young and probably since we've been grown. Most of us survived despite our stupid decisions. These kids didn't. And that is tragic.
So, now there are four more who will be forever young. Four more who will always be 15, 16 or 17. All their dreams died with them, everything they worked for and hoped for. All the things their families wanted for them. Its all gone
For everyone who knew them and for all the kids who have to walk the halls of Mainland High School this year, life will never be the same. Even the kids who didn't know them will be affected by the change in the air. When something like this happens, the difference is almost palpable. The media will be all over the school. I remember that happened when Cathy died - she had been the third student to die in a short period of time. I hated how there were always stories in the papers about it. Reports always wanting to talk about it. I expect it will be worse for these kids.
Years from now, when they are grown, they will still remember these 4 boys. They'll wonder how their lives would have turned out and they'll still feel the pain of losing someone so young. When they are parents, they will think about how it would feel to lose a child and will have a whole new respect for the parents of the boys who died. They will share this bond with their classmates and friends, just like I do with mine. No matter how far apart they grow over the years, this one thing will always tie them together.
I wish them the strength to be able to move on, not forget, but at least be able to laugh again. It will get easier, but it never goes away.