Kids aren’t supposed to die. Kids most certainly aren’t supposed to die from cardiac arrest following an asthma attack at a high school football practice. Yet, that’s exactly what happened in our town this past week.
It was a warm September day, so all of the high school sports teams were doing light practices inside the gyms. Watching films of previous games. Some conditioning. A little running. When a player struggled with asthma symptoms, the usual protocol was followed. Nothing out of the ordinary happened during the situation. Except for one hugely devastating thing: the inhaler and typical steps used by this athlete to calm his asthma symptoms didn’t work. While his twin brother and teammates practiced, coaches and team trainers struggled with emergency personnel to revive the player. He was pronounced dead at the hospital where an army of friends, teammates, coaches, and parents had gathered.
To say that this was an unimaginable tragedy doesn’t feel right. This is more than that. It is the loss of a young man who was adored by many. It was the loss of innocence for the teenagers who are seeing their own mortality in a frightening new way. It was the beginning of difficult discussions with our children about grief and faith and hope and trust.
It was also the realization that people stand up in times of trouble. People band together to support one another. People do whatever they can to lift those who are broken.
In the last few days, our town and surrounding communities have rallied around our high school and the player’s family in so many ways. A GoFundMe page and donation sites all over town and social media raising funds for the family. A teenage girl from another city organizing a campaign of support via Snapchat for all high schools to make signs for any sporting events with “This is for #63” and use that hashtag to post pics, which went viral quickly. A local t-shirt shop making and selling specialized shirts with #63 in his favorite color- red- and sold at cost. A hospital in the area purchasing some of those shirts for the entire football team and coaches. The high school staff reorganizing and restructuring the remainder of the school days this week to make certain that the students felt safe and connected and supported. There was even a comfort dog on-site!
It was Friday Night Lights last night. The game that our team was supposed to play was moved to Saturday in order to give our players and coaches time to grieve and plan the new path. Although our team didn’t play, we were represented all over! We were represented by other football teams, volleyball teams, softball teams, soccer teams, cross country teams, dance teams, cheer teams- you name it. Area high schools found a way to represent our #63. They found ways to show solidarity. They found ways to demonstrate compassion. The brought love and light to an otherwise dark time.
Thank you to everyone who lifted our students and especially the family of our #63.