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Too soon, too young

The accident which killed two University of Idaho students seems too familiar a story. We learn about these tragedies each year. And each year I think of Tyler.

Tyler and I were in high school together; he played a wind instrument in Varsity Band while I “percussed” in the percussion section. He and a few other boys left Minnesota for South Dakota over Easter vacation (we called it Easter vacation back in the 1970s). They were fulfilling an activity to earn their Eagle Scout status. They were good kids.

The van crashed when Tyler drove at excessive speeds.  A tire blew and the van crashed in a remote location. No alcohol - just speed. By the time help arrived, Tyler was critical. His physician dad arrived in time for a last conversation with Tyler. Jim is in a wheelchair forever and Bill sustained neck injuries. They were all best friends.

When my boyfriend, Stephen, arrived home from his Easter vacation, I picked him up at the airport, but kept the car radio turned off: the accident was the lead story on each station. Once in Stephen's house, we hauled his luggage into his bedroom and I slowly told him about his dear friend. We cried together. Grief counselors did not show up at school in those days, we just took care of each other.  We collected money for trees to be planted at the children's hospital in Minneapolis. Band students attended the memorial service where Tyler's father spoke loving words about his son. I still remember crying into my boyfriend's shoulder - he was wearing a brown suede sport jacket.

At a Varsity Band reunion many years ago, I learned that at least two classmates have sons named Tyler.

The 38 years have eased our grief, but not the acute memories of losing a good friend to tragedy, too soon. My prayers for the surviving students, the grieving families and UI officials.

(S-R archives photo)

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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