Tuesday, July 27, 2010


Over the weekend a house burned to the ground with three teenage children in it. The parents were dragged out by a policeman who tried to go back in for the kids but the heat and smoke and flames were too bad and he just couldn't. When firefighters got to the scene, they had to hold him back from charging in again. The parents are in serious condition and aren't expected to live.

I knew the middle child who was in the 8th grade at my middle school. He wasn't a special ed. kid, but I knew him anyway because I was in a class he was in. The oldest was going to be a senior and the youngest was in upper elementary school. There are few in this community who won't be touched in some way by this tragedy. There's so much to say. The house is on a central thoroughfare here in town and since it happened, a huge memorial has been erected. Flowers, stuffed animals, balloons, cards, candles, letters and such are piled on the tree lawn in front of the house.

I think about how it will affect the kids in this community who knew the three youngsters. I know in the long run that kids are resilient and they will survive this, but in the here and now, I worry about them. I wonder who's helping them grieve. This will be with them forever.

The night before my high school graduation a girl in my class was in a car accident; her brother was driving. She was in a vegetative state for a few months and then died. He later killed himself because he couldn't live with what happened. I wasn't close to her or her brother but here I am 20 years out of high school and I still remember what happened and their names.

The other incident that involved a young person my age that is more deeply burned into my brain happened when I was in junior high school. It was a beautiful Sunday morning. Glorious summer Sunday. I sang in the church choir and a high school boy named Matt sat in front of me. I had crush on him. He was bright, vibrant, full of life. He liked to sing and was into drama and was just so full of life and always happy, and such a talented boy. I kicked my shoes off during the service and he took them and hide them in his choir robe. I had to go through the recessional barefoot. He then tried to tell me I could get my shoes back in exchange for a kiss. But it was at church and he was teasing and I got my shoes.

Then later that afternoon he died. He was killed in an auto accident with his mom. They were on a shopping trip, buying school clothes. They were both killed by a drunk driver who walked away from the crash site. I will never forget Matt. I still remember his young smiling face, his laugh, the silly side; he's forever a young man in my head.

I spent a lot of yesterday praying- to whom I'm not sure, just praying for the parents, for the kids, for the community, for healing and understanding and peace. I guess I'm not much of an atheist.

Last night was a candlelight vigil on the lawn of the home, which is 2 blocks from our house. Daddy-O was out running errands and came home, saying people were walking in droves that direction. ITSam, Jack and I walked over. I've never seen anything like it. It was an impromptu ceremony; the word spread basically through Facebook and text messages, with a few late in the day spots on local radio stations. When we arrived at the house, there were at least 1000 people there. It was quiet. The roads were blocked off for 2 blocks in every direction by local police. People from all walks of life were in attendance and there were kids and adults everywhere. Kids holding each other, crying, standing alone, with a parent, holding hands, all quiet, some crying, some dry eyed.

A minister from the family's church gave a brief talk about the kids who died. He offered places for everyone to go if they needed people to talk to. All the minsters in town have their doors open to anyone who wants to go, regardless of membership. They prayed. A relative spoke. Other than distant traffic, all that could be heard was crying. Kids walked up to me and offered hugs, should pats, and small tight smiles. I was surprised at the number of kids who were there with parents; that pleased me to know they weren't all alone.

The minster talked and people gathered, adults and kids, holding their candles and the quiet settled over. Then at the conclusion, everyone was told they were welcome to stay at long as they wanted. It was quiet; the crowd didn't seem ready to break up. Then a clear woman's voice hovered just above the crowd, singing "Amazing Grace." Her single voice turned into two then three and the song spread through the crowd until the end of the first verse, the entire crowd of 1000 plus people were singing, children and adults alike. A cacophony of voices brought together by one, in grief.

Maybe we should all say a prayer for our own memories, for these kids, for this community, for this family, and for ourselves, for those we all lost, for we all have a story like this one.



Sinderella Studio Designs said...

So beautifully written... I am moved and filled with memories too. My heart goes out to your community.

Jacalyn @ said...

Oh Maggie that is truly tragic! Sometimes it's just hard to understand why certain things happen in life! It is so nice to hear how people support each other though!


Curley said...

I'm sure we all have stories of people we knew and lost one way or another. I guess that is the circle of life. It's just so hard when it's someone young. You never think that will happen to someone you know or love. Life is very short no matter what the person's age. Think about when your child was a newborn. Seems just like yesterday, doesn't it? There were still over 100 people there when we went by after 10:30 last night. I think it's fantastic that this community can unite with friends and neighbors to help each other through difficult times.

sam said...

How devastating. My heart goes out to the parents and their families. I am glad that the community will help them.


Evil Pixie said...

That's horrid. I remember a few years ago when a natural gas pipeline exploded near a popular creek in town. Three kids died because two of them were playing down by a creek while the other was fishing at that creek, and the community was totally rocked.

These types of events can give a person pause and evaluate their own mortality. I went to school with two girls who were murdered (at different times, through different means, and by different people), while I have had a few people from my graduating class die (cancer, suicide, etc.). It certainly made me stop and think, then make sure I let those who count know how I feel about them. Just in case.

Shan said...

I can't get my head around these types of tragedies. Thank you for sharing your thoughts about death and this recent story so that others of us can add our prayers.

I lost a very special girlfriend last night to a barely three month battle with cancer. I am still in shock and have spent the morning crying and confused.

I am a believer and I know the Lord is greeting my friend and taking her from the pain she was in on this earth. But it is sometimes so hard to understand how to cope with all the pain this world can cause.

Sending love to your community...

Maggie said...

Dana and Jacalyn- thank you both

Curley- our community can be amazing.

Patti- thank you

Evil P= so much tragedy in the world.. I'm sorry for your losses as well

Shan- I'm so sorry for the loss of your friend. I'll keep you in my thoughts and prayers. Thank you for yours.

The English Writer said...

Oh gosh, that's terrible. My stomach churned when I read the one about "Matt", how tragic, that would haunt me forever. You wrote this post so well, it was potent and touching, thank you. Karen.

Anonymous said...

awful just awful... so sorry

Dogmom Diva said...

Maggie, that is a tough one. Why? Why these young kids? I will truly never understand why God takes young ones. Guess it's their time but the WHY still remains.
You live in what sounds like a loving and caring community. It's going to take a long time for folks to each other and we should all count our blessings..