I don’t even know where to begin writing this article. I have sat here for 45 minutes leafing through reports on this terrible news; and in between sniffles and tissues, I must find a way to put something down on screen that makes sense to you all.
The emotion I feel from the events that took place this past Saturday in Clifton Park, NY have me reeling. The senseless deaths of Shenendehowa High School student athletes Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers, both 17-year-old-seniors, has caused a national stir. The news of the tragedy quickly lit up Facebook and Twitter and even reached New York Jets quarterback, Tim Tebow.
Stewart captained the football Plainsmen and Rivers played on its softball team. Both young lives were painfully cut short as a wayward 22-year old drunk driver flew across 3 lanes of traffic Saturday night on New York’s I-87 and struck the SUV being driven by Stewart.
The vehicle, which also carried Stewart’s teammate, Matthew Hardy, and Shaker High School senior and diver, Bailey Wind, rolled several times into a median. Both Hardy and Wind suffered serious injuries but remain stable. As quickly as these two young lives were stolen was as quick as the community that Stewart and Rivers called home became one. Sympathy from all over began to pour in at the push of a mouse click. Grieving Shen and Shaker students took to Facebook and Twitter and the movement to find a way to heal was underway. Twitter went viral on Monday night to lift the spirits of the surviving Hardy and Wind. It started as a simple request for Tebow and Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin to call Hardy and Wind in their hospital rooms.
The trending Twitter hash tags of #TebowCallMatt and #MissyCallBailey began to blow up Twitter with over 75,000 tweets. Like a good quarterback does, Tebow delivered as he phoned Hardy at around 9pm on Monday evening. To confirm his admiration, Tebow had this to say, “Thanks to everyone who got #TebowCallMatt trending & helped connect us. Matt truly inspired me. God bless y’all.”
There are many things that pain me about this story. It could be the fact that I live only 10 minutes away from where this community now limps around crippled and dazed. Through their swollen blackened eyes, they are looking up for answers. It could be that I am a parent of 4 and wonder how can such a thing happen to such good kids during the holidays…or ever? Maybe it is that I myself played both sides of the ball in school in the trenches like the fallen Stewart? But for me, it is most likely that I am fumbling my way through keyboard clicks amid tear-stained eyes because 19 years ago I was Matt Hardy.
In 1993, my best friend and high school football star, Daniel, died in a horrific car crash during his senior year. Another life wasted to the reckless abandoned of others. It was something that stole an entire student body’s innocence. Yes, I stood where Matt Hardy will stand; carrying his dead friend’s lifeless body to his final resting place and wondering how do you move on? I even know and grew up with Bailey Wind, even before the surviving Bailey was born. For me her name was Michele, Danny’s girlfriend. While the benevolent sympathy of a star quarterback and national coverage is a good boost in spirit for those left behind, it will be the ongoing support and companionship of those around those left behind that will ease the pain.
Matt, Bailey, and all of you amazing Plainsmen who lost your innocence this weekend, I want you ALL to know:
You will be okay. You will survive. Cry your eyes out. Curse the sky. Play your songs. Grab on to your parents, brothers and sisters and collapse into your classmates arms. Now, more than ever, you are never alone. I promise you will be okay. It will just take a while. Trust me, please…there is a tomorrow. -R. Currao