The mood around here has been rather solemn this week; our “small” town (pop. 80,000) suffered a tragedy that touched nearly everyone. Saturday night, four students from West High were involved in a horrific car accident right in front of the school, literally wrapping the vehicle around a light pole. The two girls in the backseat, Marie & Justin, are hospitalized in critical but stable condition; the driver, Bret, lost both his legs; & Mike, the front passenger & brother of Marie, died at the scene. Authorities have ruled out alcohol & drugs; it seems to be a case of too much speed & too little experience behind the wheel. The shock & grief flowing through the school has been intense, particularly since the accident happened right there. A memorial has grown on the lawn in front, with balloons, flowers, & candles; the pole & sidewalks are covered with tributes & prayers. Sam knows both the boys, at least to nod or say hey- both of them played on the varsity basketball team; Bret is in his weight training class, & Mike attended the same magnet middle school as Sam & was the T.A. in his math class.
I am normally a pretty stoic person- I try not to dwell on these sorts of tragedies & get myself emotionally wound up. We only live a few blocks from the school & I go around the campus on my walks; tonight, I stopped to read the things that people have written & found my stomach churning, tears filling my eyes. The realization is there- it could have been any of us. One split second, one small misjudgment, & families are changed forever. Here I am, facing Sam turning 16 & learning to drive, & I am forced to acknowledge the truth that children can die.
Please pray for these families; I cannot fathom the pain of these parents, who have to bury one child & face the life-altering injuries of another. Particularly, hold up Bret- this young man is facing an unimaginable future- beyond his injuries, the loss of his best friend, & the destruction of his dreams, he will probably be facing charges for reckless driving & involuntary manslaughter. I hope this won’t happen; I believe he has more than paid for any lapse in judgment. This boy will need all the love, support, & prayers he can get, in order to deal with the guilt & the realities of his life.