Friday, December 01, 2006

Sometimes We Lose Them ...

We lost one last month. I didn't know him, which is odd at our small school, but sometimes our paths don't cross even here. I do know the brothers he left behind, because I taught them both, and I know his weeping friends in my class who can't believe it could happen to one of theirs. Death seems a distant thing when you are in your teens.

When I think back on almost 19 years of teaching and count the students we've lost while they were in school here, it works out to almost one every two years. Most of these losses are attributable to teenage recklessness and automobiles. One loss in particular, about 5 years ago, is so painful that I still can't talk about it without wimping out. So I don't.

It's hard to convince teens who are sure they are invinceable that ... actually ... they are not. We put them through safe driving courses and preach the antidrug mesage. There are many teen run programs that push the idea that healthy choices like avoiding smoking, drugs, and dangerous behaviors can mean a rich, long, fun life. I think these kid delivered programs have more effect than many of the adult delivered lectures about this or that hazard.

My own kids have been involved in presenting those programs and I like to think that they and their buddies have made a difference.

In the end, it's a personal choice, a decision to engage in a dangerous or self destructive behavior. Sometimes you get a second chance. Sometimes you don't. Sometimes, something that doesn't seem so dangerous is sinisterly so.

That is what happened a month ago, a common household product, seemingly harmless when used as intended turned out to be deadly when abused.

The product is "Dust Off", those cans of compressed "air" used to clean computers and keyboards. Inhaled, it produces a sensation of dizziness. That is because it's not just air in those cans. There's a propellant inside the can that is a heavier than air gas. The dizzy feeling is produced by lungs that are filled with this gas rather than oxygen rich air. With the gas displacing the lighter air, an oxygen starved brain goes fuzzy or ... shuts down.

If you read the MSDS data on Dust Off, there is a host of bad things that can happen from inhaling it.

Kids don't read MSDS sheets. They probably don't read warning labels on cans. They are kids afterall, and they are invinceable.

I wrote that about a month ago, right after the event and sat on it ...not sure why, but I did.

This Wednesday, I rode on a school bus with a group of my kids and kids from another nearby school. It's a rural county and we all know each other so we shared a bus. We went to a fun event together and had a great day. When it was over, the bus dropped us off at our school and drove about 12 miles away to drop off the neighbor school's bunch.

Thirty minutes after getting off that bus at our neighbor school, one of those kids was dead. He was rushing to the tag office to get a tag for his new truck and lost control while passing a car... he wasn't alone. One of his passengers died and a third is in the hospital in serious condition.

The unofficial word is ... no seatbelts were used.

If you own, know, or work with teens, please take a minute to remind them they are NOT invinceable. Be that voice in their ear that makes them click the seatbelt, avoid bad situations, and generally make good choices.

At our neighbor school, there will be much pain and grieving for awhile. Eventually, time will soften the pain. Some.

Life will go on.

But sometimes, it doesn't.

Teens need to know that.

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Anonymous said...

So sorry to read this post. Please accept condolences for the ongoing loss of young sounds so hard.

Deb said...

That seems to be the average frequency around here too. A month or so ago a 19 year old died when he rolled his truck trying to pass on the right. When I read his name I realized I had often seen this kid driving to school and even remarked to my kids about how fast and recklessly he was driving. Guess it caught up with him. In these situations, I can't imagine the parents' pain.

pissed off patricia said...

I don't know why not only teens but even kids in their 20's won't wear their seat belts. Hell there are seasoned adults who won't do it either.

I think most of us can think back to things we did as teens and wonder how we didn't get hurt or even killed. You are so right about the "it's not going to happen to me" mindset of kids. I lost two friends in high school almost the same way.

You story is heartbreaking and sadly it can be told in some town almost every day.

roger said...

when i look back at my own younger self i wonder how i survived. i don't do so much stupid or careless stuff now (i try to do none). your post is a reminder to us all.

kathy a said...

three deaths in such a short time? that is just heartbreaking.

the invincibility factor is absolutely one of the hardest and scariest things about raising teens. i lost my first friend at 13, when he rode his bicycle through a stop sign and in front of a truck. about the only positive effect of a tragedy like that is that it forces those left behind to acknowledge the fragility of life.

my own son got in two accidents [with airbag deployment] within two months of getting his license; fortunately, no one was injured, and i imagine he learned something once we removed him from our insurance and junked the car he had driven. a friend of his was picked up for speeding, with a carful of passengers, after drinking -- he lost his license for a year. they are lucky, all of them.

all of the parental warnings in the universe -- and both boys heard plenty of them -- did not keep them from doing incredibly stupid things.

[they do use seat belts, which is something. and both boys now drive more responsibly -- one paying his own way, the other knowing his driving record is marred for years to come.]

i'm so sorry for the losses in your community.

kathy a said...

sorry for being long-winded today. my kids are 17 and 19, and every time i hear stories like these, it hits close to home.

i think a reason my son does use seat belts is that it was a habit established so early. the car did not move unless everyone was belted in, beginning before he can remember.

it's a little harder to do that kind of lifelong training with some of the other dangers facing teens. things come up that most parents would never think to worry about -- like huffing "dust off," or kids getting high on massive doses of cold medication [e.g., corecedin cough and cold], or a hundred other things.

and other influences are just impossible to control, even if they are known. i get very angry seeing how recklessly people drive, for example; it just seems an epidemic around here. so, mom-the-overly-anxious-driver can tell tales of death and destruction, but what the kids see every day is other adults driving like maniacs and not getting killed. (among other things, invincible teens don't believe that their judgments, experience, and reflexes are not as seasoned as those of most on the road, including the maniacs.)

sorry for ranting, but i wish there was a broader sense of responsibility among drivers generally. don't even get me started on urban people who buy SUV's and decide they are king of the road by virtue of sheer mass. in more rural areas, i've noticed that some folks are in such a hurry to cover long familiar distances that they lack patience for slower drivers, are willing to risk that nobody is in that blind area because nobody ever is.

Hal at Ranch Ramblins said...

Probably like many of the male readers who read this blog, I sometimes wonder in amazement how I survived my teen years. And as you remind us, some unfortunately do not.

Anonymous said...

i'm sorry. there's not a lot else to say. when i was growing up, we had so many kids get killed, by the carloads, going to proms and after-proms that the schools were trying to figure out how to keep them from driving all together.

looking back, i have no idea how i survived some of the just stupid things i did. there was no thought of conquences, at least not permanent ones. at most, a couple of times i thought to myself 'if i get caught, i'm going to be grounded forever.' it didn't even slow me down.

and now, i have no idea how to make *these kids today* understand. *sigh*

MoMadness said...

Oh, how the heart does break. So sorry to hear this. One of my son's best friends died at 19 in a fierce car crash after dropping his dad off at work. They speculated he fell asleep at the wheel. An accident to horrible to detail. This young man is in my heart and prayers still, every day, and that happened 10 years ago.

Likes2mtnbike said...

Same here for me. Lost a couple in high school--one to drugs/drowning, one to a propane fire. I went to the funeral of a co-workers niece a while back. She was killed in a car accident. Kids were sober, other driver wasn't but nobody had on belts. I never saw grief so raw as watching those kids file past the casket at Stowers, each one placing a ring on her finger...apparently an agreed-upon gesture. By the end of the night there was no more room--her fingers, thumbs, rings everywhere. Kids saying goodby to their friend after only 15years. She was a beautiful girl from a wonderful family. Her killer was caught but escaped custody at Tampa General Hospital.
I still watch the news to see if he ever gets his due.
Oh, kids. We were you once. Believe us. Listen to us. You won't live forever but you might live long enough to grow old.

Floridacracker said...

This accident is the classic teen car accident. Too fast, passing, no belts. It does happen daily around the country.

Very true. I can't imagine getting in a car without seatbelts. It doesn't even feel right to me.

me too. how did we make it?

Kathy A,
Feel free to comment as long and as often as you need to. I love the comments and yours was very good... maybe because so much of it is familiar. Our kids too always knew that seatbelts were mandatory and now it's second nature to click that belt. Your son sounds something like my Katie who dented her car a few times ...they are posts in the archives.

Me too, but I knew some wild girls who must now be thinking the same thing :)

I know, I work with them daily and they are "experts" on everything and experienced at nothing.
If we can just get them from 14 to 19, they'll probably make it.

It is painful, but how good of you to keep his memory.

Those kid funerals are the worst. I have been to a few too many.
Your last line is something I try and get across to my students all the time.

Rurality said...

Sorry to hear about that. A similar tradgedy in this rural area is a thing they call "the choking game". Maybe you have it there too. Way too many kids have died playing this "game".

Floridacracker said...

I know of it, it passed through here with the goth crowd a few years ago, but quickly passed.
I did break up a boxing match in the boys room today complete with boxing gloves, a lookout at the door, and a small crowd of boys that were supposed to be in class.
It was wonderfully normal and even though wrong, it still makes me chuckle.

Mrs. S said...

This post made me realize that Zoe will be a teenager one day, and I'll be the one worrying and trying to convince her she's not invinceable. She's so little right now, it's easy to keep her safe, but I won't be able to forever and that idea is terrifying in it's newness.

Is this what being a parent is always like?

Floridacracker said...

Mrs. S,
My mom said, "Always".


Abandoned in Pasadena said...

It was during those teen years of my children's that really turned me into a Christian and I thank God everyday that they survived them, when so many of their friends did not.

Anonymous said...

...and to think it could happen to anyone. I'll always be careful, if not for me, for you.

I know you always tell me 10-4, good job etc. when I come home from all my conferences, but seeing your support on here is :o) times 10000000.

I love you. -Katy Bug

Laura said...

I"m going to print this up and have my girls and their friends read this. Thank you for a well written post that will hit home for them.

LauraHinNJ said...

I remember my friends doing that thing that Rurality mentioned when I was in middle school in the early 80's.

How incredibly stupid of us! Glad I somehow had the sense not to let them do it to me and that none of them got hurt by it.

Floridacracker said...

The teen years make some parents lose their religion ;)

That's my girl!

Thank you for sharing it.

Middle school is the equivalent of class 5 rapids on an otherwise placid river. If you can just survive it the ride is not too bad.
Glad you made it :)