It was a September morning in 1994, and you had to assume it was once again a typical early start to a day: An alarm clock. A shower. Some breakfast. A honk from outside, signaling a ride to school was ready to roll.
It was just another day … until it wasn’t.
A dump truck. A car. Mayhem. Carnage. Tragedy.
It was Wednesday, Sept. 14, 1994, when five teenagers from Madison Area High School, back home in Maine, were on their way to school from their tiny little town of Athens. They were all killed in that car accident.
Three of the students were 17 — Audra Linkletter, Tonia Post, and James Sites. The others were 15 (Mark Haynie) and 14 (Ryan Linkletter). Audra and Ryan were cousins.
All were athletes and while I didn’t know them well, I knew some of their names and I certainly knew their culture.
It was one of those heart-ripping moments I’ll never forget.
Twice when I was in that part of the state I visited the graves of those killed. The first time wasn’t long after the accident. My son was with me. He was three.
I remember the granite of the gravestones being flooded with trinkets and flowers, memorials that tore at the heart as the hurt became visible through a variety of different colors and tributes.
Five teenagers — sons, daughters, friends, teammates — gone in a moment.
It’s been a long time since I thought about that accident, but once again I allowed the aftermath to wash over me.
Those who were left behind weren’t so lucky to escape the pain of such a devastating loss. And whenever Sept. 14 rolls around — as it did just about a month ago — I’m sure fresh tears flow as they remember what was lost.
Sadly, Oct. 8 became another one of those dates for another group of families and friends in another New England state.
Last night, in Williston, Vt., five teenagers were killed in a car accident on I-89.
According to the Burlington Free Press, the principal at Harwood Union High School in Moretown confirmed the victim’s names: Eli Brookens, of Waterbury, Janie Cozzi and Liam Hale, of Fayston, and Mary Harrisand Cyrus Zschau, both of Moretown.
Ages weren’t available, but four of them were students at Harwood Union, all in their junior year.
Reports say all five teens were in a VW Jetta traveling on I-89 just before midnight when a pick-up truck, traveling the wrong way on the highway, slammed into their car.
Both vehicles caught fire.
Believe it or not, while police were trying to pull a young victim from the wreckage, a police car was stolen from the scene. Police haven’t confirmed yet if it was the pick-up’s driver or maybe a passenger.
But this isn’t going to be about him. He doesn’t deserve an ounce of my thoughts on this Sunday.
Not when five families have had their lives changed forever. Not when hundreds of their friends and peers are left to question why something so horrible could happen.
Needless to say, this time around, I didn’t know any of these teenagers. Not even their names.
The news, however, is just as tragic. Just as heart-wrenching. Just as fucking sad.
All it takes is a few Facebook searches to realize what was lost last night.
You see their families, you see their friends. You see them smiling in moments captured in less than a second, and then you realize they’re gone.
And, you multiply it by five.
Life’s not fair. By now, I know that. We all do. But life can also be so unmerciful cruel at times.
They were teenagers out on a Saturday night, making memories that would last them until the end of time.
Then the end came far too soon.
Monday morning is going to come for the students of Harwood Union High School, only it won’t be a typical day anymore.
Too many of their friends are gone, too many hearts are broken, too many eyes are crying.
Five more angels roam the Heavens and that’s all the comfort that’s left behind.