Please…No More Dead Kids

On Saturday night I wrote about Adam Riley, 21, of Centerville who died at his college in South Carolina. Yesterday, I had to do it all over again.

As heartbreaking as Adam’s death was, what I covered yesterday ranks right up there as well. Shannon Thompson, a 16-year-old girl who attended Falmouth High School, was killed in a car wreck on Monday night. Falmouth is my town so I knew I was getting this story. When I woke up and saw a text message from my editors my stomach twisted into knots immediately. And it only got worse from there.

You see, Shannon turned out to be your All-American teenage kid. She was beautiful, a Straight-A student, a member of the Model United Nations, math team, played two instruments, was in the band and even mentored younger kids. She died in a car accident and while some accidents involve kids drinking or doing drugs, this was not the case.

Shannon was out with two of her friends when the car her friend was driving veered off the road and struck a telephone pole. She was killed instantly and police said it didn’t matter whether she was wearing her seat belt or not…she would’ve died anyways. Her friends walked away with minor injuries. The cause of the crash is still under investigation but it looks like speed and icy roads were the sole factors.

But when I picked up the police report, I cringed when I noticed the driver’s date of birth. Jan. 19, 1991. Yup…it was Dylan Butman’s 18th birthday they were all celebrating. I was immediately heartbroken for this poor kid because every year on his birthday for the rest of his life he’s going to have to deal with the death of his best friend. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

It was with a heavy heart and a lump already forming in my throat that i approached Shannon’s dad’s house yesterday. Yup…I went in person instead of calling. It’s much tougher that way but I feel like I owe them a face-to-face so that they know I’m sincere in wanting to write a nice article about their daughter. As I approached the door I briefly considered just turning tail and not bothering them, but my legs kept moving and I knocked. A woman answered and I explained my presence to her. A minute later I was invited inside.

Kevin Thompson, Shannon’s dad, is a truly remarkable person. Less than 13 hours after discovering his daughter was dead, he graciously took time to explain to a total stranger what kind of a wonderful person his daughter was. But even more unbelievable to me, was the fact that just hours after Shannon died, you know what he did? He went straight to Dylan’s house and he told that young man he is not responsible for Shannon’s death. He said accidents happen and he forgave him on the spot. I was floored.

And somehow, the man ended up thanking me for coming. Thanking me, as if I did anything besides interrupt a grieving family. They must’ve all seem the apprehension in my face because one of Shannon’s relatives took one look at me and said “Must’ve been hard to knock on that door huh?” Can you imagine they just lost Shannon and yet they’re the ones comforting me?

It was more of the same at Shannon’s mom’s house. Same amount of grace and strength, and when I left their house friends and family were again assuring everything was OK and that I did a good job. I swear, I don’t think the ability for compassion toward others during times like these will ever be understood. At least not by me.

Here’s the article if you care to read it. I don’t think I can. That’s two kids dead in three days. Three sets of grieving parents. A whole high school band room full of kids who have never sustained that kind of a loss before. I can’t deal with anymore parents burying their kids right now. I’m on overload. I’m ready to put Will in a protective bubble and never let him leave the house at this point.

And I’m ready for a strong drink. Or two.

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10 thoughts on “Please…No More Dead Kids

  1. God, this is awful, isn’t it. I don’t envy you at all. It took a lot of courage to go see this family and I’m sure your compassion helped them.

    I’m pretty certain that if I ever lose a child I will need to be locked away in a padded room for a long long long time.

  2. I never had a problem watching horror movies and stuff like that, but I could never watch movies or TV when the topic was missing kids or dying kids. It is the single most horrible thing I can imagine, and I’m sorry you had to deal with it twice in such a short time. Things like this are why I never felt guilty or over-bearing when one of us would say “Please be careful” when our kids were going out, regardless of where they were going or who they were going with. It may not do much good, but it never hurts. My heart goes out to all the families.

  3. ugh…my stomach sank when I read this. You have a tough job.

    I’m giving my kids some extra hugs today-thanks for the perspective!

  4. Wow. This was incredibly tough to read, and I can only imagine how difficult it was to write. What an awful week for you.

    However, you paid a beautiful tribute. What a comfort to the family! Your words have brought peace to many, I’m sure.

  5. Your articles are necessary to people because it helps the grief process. You’ve brought those two kids into the lives and living rooms of everyone who reads the articles.

    It helps to make the good stories you cover that much better. Things like this give the mundane more comfort. Like an article about the volunteer work at one of our shelters that I added to the company website today :)

  6. thank you. a beautiful tribute to a beautiful girl.
    of course you didnt write anything that we dont already know, but what is important is that you wrote it so well, and it does help to read it all out like that.

  7. Wow, your two posts/articles practically had me in tears at my desk. It’s amazing how becoming a parent changes you. I used to not flinch at much but now I become easily emotionally overwrought over anything to do with children — I’m often in tears in front of my tv from ridiculous fictional stuff. Tough stories to cover but you wrote it well. Definitely makes you want to go home and hug your own all the more.

  8. Thanks for writing the best you could about shannon. she really was an amazing, caring, gorgeous girl. You really had the courage to go to her house and not many writers could do that. She is at peace and i hope dylan will be. Falmouth high school is strong and no one blames dylan for what happened.

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