Last weekend we woke up on a typical Sunday morning. We slept in. The kids slowly meandered downstairs and joined us for breakfast. I got a phone call from a friend asking if I had heard any news of an accident that had occurred in the wee hours of the morning. We hadn't heard anything. She proceeded to tell me there was a horrible, tragic accident involving 5 teenagers who were killed while driving back from a concert in South Burlington, an hour away. A man driving north in the southbound lane hit the teenagers head-on killing them all. At this point, we did not yet know who those kids were. No one knew. My 16 year old, Alex, had asked to go to that concert. I didn't let him go. We started to panic knowing many of his friends had gone to this concert.
As the news trickled in there were unconfirmed rumors that there were kids we knew in the accident. They were not from our hometown, but a neighboring town. Vermont is a small state, small communities that are very close, a state where there is usually only one degree of separation among people. Five of those teenagers were all from the same neighboring towns. Four from the same school and one, who went to a private school, was just home for the long weekend. This has left all the communities in Vermont devastated with this horrible, tragedy. We are all numb. We are in shock. I try my best to protect my children from hurt, from harm, but this week I have not been able to protect my son from this unbelievable pain.
Those five teenagers were Eli Brookens (16), Cyrus Zschau (16), Liam Hale (16), Mary Harris (16) (students at Harwood Union Highschool) and Janie Cozzi (15) (student at Kimball Union Academy).
Our whole community has been dealing with this horrible, tragic, unfathomable loss.
We attended a candle light vigil where several people spoke, but one speech that really left a mark on my heart was from Mary Harris' uncle, Darryl Mays:
"This is a beautiful day. We live in a beautiful place," he said as he warned against feelings of negativity — even toward the suspected killer. He thanked the emergency responders.
"Be thankful for your friends. Be blessed that you got to live today. Do your best. Live a great life. That's what you can do for your friends who died," Mays said to the students, many of whom wept in response.
I loved his words. A reminder and a message to not just adults, but especially to the kids... to be thankful, to count our blessings, to do our best, to leave a positive mark on this life, to live a great life. Like Becky Higgins' motto, "Live a good life, and record it." I think it's so important to take those photos, share your memories, share your stories for in times like this, those photos, those memories, those stories may be the only things we have left to help us remember those who have come before us, to help us remember those we have lost much, much too early.
This is the message that I want my son to take away from this. To live a great life, to enjoy all the blessings we have around us, to be thankful for our life today, to do our best, to LIVE A GREAT LIFE.