05 October 2011

Death in a Small Maine Town

A terrible thing happened here last week. Late Wednesday night, a young man in our community was in a fatal car accident. He was 18-years-old.

He had attended local high school and was in my daughter's senior class last year.

I'm a substitute teacher at the high school, but I did not know this young man. I know his face, because I recognize just about all the kids at the school, but I didn't know him. Yet, thanks to social media, I now feel like I know him, and I'm grieving him along with the rest of the school, the town, and the surrounding communities.

When news of the accident reached the high school students the next morning, they immediately began posting about it on Facebook. All that day, they dealt with their shock, horror, and grief online. They ask questions, they cried out in pain, and they took solace in the community that can be found on the internet.

In the midst of it all, they talked about the boy who died. They remembered and they shared. He was unique, kind, and very, very loved.

Before the day was over, the kids all decided to fore-go the "retro day" planned at school for the following day, in honor of Homecoming Friday. Instead, they agreed to dress in black, for the young man who died always seemed to be wearing black.

And sure enough, the next day, nearly every student showed up to school for the Homecoming pep really, dressed in black. Several kids made remembrance signs and "Rest in Peace" signs. And all over Facebook that day, kids who had graduated the year before posted that they were wearing black wherever they were - at college in Orono, Gorham, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Arizona; or wherever they were working - Portland, Richmond, Augusta, Lewiston.

That night at the Homecoming football game, the packed bleachers shared a moment of silence as we remembered again the one young life who would never come back to the Homecoming celebration. There was not a dry eye in that arena.

In a small town such as ours, we become very close knit. We all look out for each other and if we don't know someone, we know at least 10 people who DO know that person. We are connected and we belong to one another if only in a small way.

When that young man died, everyone in our community lost either a son, a brother, a co-worker, a fellow-student, or a friend. We all grieve for him.

And if that weren't hard enough, this video of him was posted late on that first day after he died. It is beautiful and chilling all at the same time. You'll see what I mean.

(If the video isn't clear on your screen, go to this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OqywaF8cDCc)

Rest in Peace, Cameron. You will be remembered.

Copyright © 2011 - Paulla Estes


Winter Solstice Dreams said...

My heart goes out to the family and friends of this young man. We too have been devastated by the loss of a young man; he was 14 and died two weeks ago (on a Weds as well) while riding his ATV. He was our next door neighbor and we've watched him grow up these past 5 years. It is such a horrible tragedy. I completely empathize and am totally sympathetic. My wish is for healing within our small towns--that seemingly become our family. All my love to you and yours. Thank you for posting this. xoxo --Kim

Paulla said...

Thanks for writing, Kim. I'm so sorry about your loss. Thanks for sharing. It's so terrible to lose a young life like that. My heart goes out to you and to your town.