Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Power of People

            I thought a lot about whether or not I should even begin to write something like this.
            I’ve never met Deanna Rivers or Chris Stewart or Matt Hardy or Bailey Wind. Shenendehowa is a little out of my coverage zone and I know as much about high school diving as I know about astrophysics. That’s not very much.
            I didn’t know anything about these kids and I felt as if I were intruding on some sort of something if I tried to write a reaction about the all too tragic events of this weekend.
            But I had been on a bus earlier on Monday night, coming back from visiting my sister in NYC, when I saw that Tim Tebow had called Matt in the hospital. Despite the fact that I was surrounded by strangers and sitting on a silent, dark bus, I started to cry. Because I had witnessed a miracle.
            I’m not talking a turning water into wine kind of thing, I’m talking about a human miracle, the simple power of people united together, trying to help each other.
So as I sat in my apartment, watching my Twitter feed blow up with message after message supporting Matt and Bailey, I couldn’t help the emotion that I felt and for me, the only way to deal with that kind of emotion is to write it out..

The whole night started for me, when Frank Acker tweeted me about supporting the hastag #TebowCallMatt. Totally normal right? Sure. Except Frank Acker is a student from Hoosic Valley – a school that doesn’t compete with or against Shenendehowa or Shaker in any kind of sport throughout the season.
If anything, Frank has met these kids only a few more times than I have. But there it was, a tweet, asking me to help, from a kid who didn’t have to even consider it.
And the tweets and retweets kept coming and coming and coming.
Kids who had never even heard of Matt or Bailey before the tragedy this weekend were suddenly taking to Twitter in a way I had never even considered possible before. But that wasn’t all.
I checked my Facebook and suddenly people I went to high school with – spread out across the country in various colleges and towns and jobs – were posting statuses asking for help in getting Matt and Bailey into the national trending topics.
Head back to Twitter and there they were - #TebowCallMatt and #MissyCallBailey – right in the middle of trending topics.
Kids, athletes, student athletes, reporters, parents, community leaders; all of them came together and made something happen last night. We weren’t different schools or different companies or competing for Twitter followers and retweets. We were pulling for something that was, and still is, a million times bigger than any single one for us.
And it all worked. Tebow called Matt, Missy called Bailey. It all worked.
A group of kids started something on Monday night, something small, that spread and grew and produced a miracle. I say that without any sense of irony or sarcasm. This was a miracle.
I’ve always told people that the reason I love covering high school sports so much is because of the kids. These are student-athletes who are simply playing because they enjoy the sport. And last night these student-athletes rallied together simply because they saw tragedy in front of them and decided to not let it completely drown them.
I can’t begin to imagine the kind of loss that people felt this weekend. But I can think about losing my sister or my boyfriend or my friends and just the mere thought of it makes it feel as if a rock has been placed on my chest and all the air has been forcibly removed from my lungs.
Tonight there is a vigil at Shenendehowa for the lives lost over the weekend and the two lives that are still fighting in hospital beds. I know we’ve done a lot – more than a lot – already, but if the Capital Region is as incredible as it acted last night, I know we’ll pack the stadium at Shen tonight.
It might be a little greedy of me, but I’m asking for another 518 miracle.
The time will pass and the pain we’ve all felt so sharply over the course of the last 72 hours will dull ever so slightly, but I’m asking that we don’t ever forget. Because forgetting brings us back to square one and it does a disservice to Chris and Deanna and the lives that they could have led.
We have to remember because, and I’ve never believed it more than I do right now, there is still some good left in the world. There are still people – kids – who will get away from their video games and TV shows and use the world in front of them to make something happen.
I’ve lived in the Albany area for the majority of my 23 years on the Earth and there has never been a single moment in those 23 years when I have been more proud of this area of the kids that live here.
So now we remember. We remember and we acknowledge our ability to change things for the better. Because we can. And that’s a miracle.
--- Laura


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