Writing is like being able to put life into a snow globe. It takes the things that are too big and scary and reduces them into a form that I can put away when I want and look at from a distance. It also takes all that’s good in life and captures it into something I can take out when I want and look at close up and keep forever. It makes the bad things into something I can hold…and the good things into something I can hold onto. Both help so much that I need that little souvenir of life.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sub Notes: The Boy Who Died Outside My Window

I did not see the boy die, and I will forever be glad of that. What I saw—what was almost surreal—was the rescue chopper. Today’s schools are often built almost without windows (literally prison-style) in order to avoid distractions. But this was years ago, and beyond the wall of classroom windows, about 40 feet away, was the Flight for Life helicopter landing in the parking lot.

When I hear the phrase, “snuffed out,” I think of this boy. Sometimes I wonder how long he pondered the decision to huff Freon. Minutes? Seconds? Regardless, I imagine that his last deciding breath was his last one altogether. And then that presumably strong, healthy boy was snuffed with a sniff, blown out with a breath.

I’ve heard that it happens that way with inhalants—that you are stopped. Ended. Frozen, almost, which I suppose has a horrifying appropriateness in the case of Freon.

I think sometimes about how abruptly and unexpectedly life can end. I heard rumors about how hard they tried to restart his heart. I know they were there in the parking lot for most of the class period. Until at last the helicopter rose to the sky in no particular hurry.

I wish I could stop messing up but I don’t know how. What is it that mends broken people? Jesus? Chocolate? New shoes? I wish someone could tell me. I wish I had an answer. Once I asked Nathan what the answer was. I thought he might know, considering all he’s been through [the holocaust], but he told me I would have to find it for myself. That everybody has to. ~Jennifer Donnelly, Revolution


  1. What a horrible experience. It sounds like the makings for a YA novel.

  2. I remember the first time I saw someone die. I was around eight years old and was walking from my house to a little hobby shop down on Boonslick Drive in St. Charles. There was a cemetery across from it and before I got that far I saw that the street was blocked by police cars and a small crowd or 5 or 10 people had formed.

    So I asked someone what was going on. A young child, probably around 5 years old, had been riding a bike and was hit by a car. They said his small body had been thrown 500 feet - a distance that still haunts me and that I really didn't believe at the time. I've since learned that it was all too believable.

    The paramedics were still working on him although there was little point. Perhaps it was God's mercy that from the point he was struck that he was in a deep coma.

    All I could do was what I'd seen my father do so many times when he passed an accident on the highway. I said a prayer for the boy and for his family, who were still unaware of the tragedy that had just entered their lives.

    That was over 50 years ago and the images from that day are still fresh in my mind. I was only three years older than the boy - but those were 3 years he would never see. I've forgotten so much in the years between, but some memories always haunt you.

  3. Tammy, what a terrible waste of life, and how sad for you and the other witnesses who were affected.

  4. Tammy, how sad and hope you don't have to witness that again.
    Tom, did you ever consider starting your own blog?

  5. Lynn - Naw. But I hope my messages aren't detracting from what Tammy is blogging. I guess I'm just too verbal. The comments here remind me of something - and off I go..

  6. I have not witnessed an anonymous death. But twice, I've learned over a weekend of student deaths from auto accidents. It's hard to accept. You hope it's a mistake. But it's not.

  7. Tom--I so agree with Lynn. I strongly advise you to start your own blog. I'm sure you would attract many followers; the blogosphere is always in need of people who have points to make.

    Think about it.


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