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.