I have a game of catch-up to play on my blog. I never finished writing about our Florida trip, and now I have even more writing material about the past week. Real life has taken precedence over my blog, but stay tuned for lots of updates from yours truly. For now, I feel the need to write about something else that is on my heart.
Yesterday, our community was hit with a tragedy. The news about our small town was all over the media, and it’s likely you read or heard about it. Two school buses carrying band students en route to Six Flags St. Louis were involved in an accident with two other vehicles on the highway. Some students walked away without injury and others sustained minor to critical injuries. But sadly, one High School student sitting in the back of the bus lost her life. A 19-year-old man, from a nearby town, who was driving a truck involved in the pile-up, also passed away. Yes, it could’ve been far worse, but two lives lost takes a huge emotional toll on the school and community. Every single life is precious.
The student who lost her life, Jessica, was a member of the Color Guard. I was once in her place as a Color Guard girl, riding the bus to competitions and various Band and Guard activities. It could’ve been me. It could’ve been us. Why it was her and the other students is beyond our understanding.
When you’re on that bus heading to a competition, the last thing on your mind is the chance of a tragedy striking. You trust the bus drivers, whom you don’t even know, with your life. Your thoughts are focused on preparing for upcoming day, perhaps doing your make-up or hair, laughing with friends, or resting before the big performance. You never think it will happen to you. I don’t think it ever crossed my mind until now.
Even though I did not personally know Jessica, I know of her family and one of sisters that graduated with me, and I don’t have to know her for my heart to be broken. The fact is that she was an irreplaceable life, as a sister, daughter, friend, and all the other roles she may have played.
It so hard to wrap my mind around the whole thing. I can’t fully imagine what it would have been like to be on those buses, and to experience what those students did. To lose the life of a fellow Guard member, with whom you have spent endless hours, is like losing a member of your extended family. They will feel the effects of this tragedy for the rest of the year and possibly for years to come.
There will be a hole in the formations on the football field, where Jessica was supposed to be twirling her flag or rifle. A hole in the parade formation, where Jessica would be marching alongside her friends. An empty seat in the classroom and at her family’s dinner table. And yet, the show must go on. Life must continue.
Can you imagine getting back on the buses for the first competition? I can only think that there will be tears, fear, anxiety, and a mix of emotions as they have to face the buses again. I imagine the bus being unusually silent and prayers being spoken.
I can’t help to remember last fall when they lost the life of another band member. She got in an accident when she was driving to school, and I was subbing at the high school that day where I heard the news with the whole school. The Band and the community has been hit hard in the past year.
I am praying along with the community for everyone involved. The family, friends, and loved ones of Jessica and the young man, Daniel, from Sullivan. The physically injured students, and everyone who has been affected emotionally. The bus drivers and the bus company, who I imagine have a huge burden of guilt. The driver of the semi who was also involved. The school and the community. The effects are far-reaching.
I still can’t get it off my mind… it could’ve been us.
STJ Color Guard Alum 2007