It’s been ten years since a day that shook me to my core and set a precedent for how I would drive for the rest of my life.
It’s been ten years since the brief time I lived in Bradenton, Florida – six months of hell that almost destroyed me – and within those six months came a day one of my fellow high schoolers was taken from us far too soon.
November 20th, 2006.
It was seventh period, the end of the day. I was in chorus class, my chosen elective. We had broken into groups to practice for our upcoming winter concert when over the intercom came an announcement from our principal. We were to stop lessons immediately and turn on the classroom TV, to the live school news station.
My teacher flipped on the TV and we watched silently as my principal came on the screen, looking shaken and serious and terribly, terribly grave.
I remember my heart sinking. I remember watching him talk, telling us that a sophomore named Tyler Isenhour had left school earlier that day with a friend, lost control of his car, and crashed into the median before flipping his car over into the side of the road.
His friend had been wearing her seat belt. She walked away.
Tyler hadn’t been. He didn’t.
Ten years have passed since that day, and I’ve never forgotten the way my principal’s voice had cracked as he begged us to always, always wear our seat belts.
I’ve never forgotten the horrified silence that followed the end of the announcement that lasted minutes, hours, days for all I knew.
I didn’t know Tyler. I’d seen him a few times, walking around school, but with the thousands of students that attended my high school I’d never talked to him.
But knowing that it had been one of us that’d been killed and not just some other student on the news absolutely shook me.
We had to take the road on which the accident occurred home. I remember my mom driving by the cones and the police cars – I can’t recall if Tyler’s car was still there or not – and thinking to myself, That’s where it happened. Right there. That’s where he died.
And from that day on until the day we moved away from that wretched, god-awful place, we’d pass that spot in the car on the way to school and I would think of how on those grounds, an innocent boy, only a year older than me, had gone away and would never come back.
It’s been ten years and I still remember that. I’ll always remember.
Every time I sit down in my car and pull my seat belt across my lap, I think of Tyler.
Every time I think that I’m just going down the street, or that I’m in a hurry, or that my trip will only last a few minutes and just maybe a seat belt is unnecessary, I think of Tyler.
Every time I have passengers in my car and have to wait for them to buckle up before I hit the gas, I think of Tyler.
“If you guys go forth today always wearing your seat belts,” my principal had said to us that awful day, “then maybe Tyler won’t have died in vain.”
The day after Tyler died, my mom insisted I stay home from school since grief counselors were going to be on campus all day and she didn’t think I could handle the atmosphere. I protested but eventually agreed to stay home. And I tried to do homework but I could think of nothing but Tyler and somehow finding a way to honor him, to remember him. Eventually, I wrote him a song.
Back then, I wrote songs on my piano quite often. It was my way of coping with the living hell I was going through, and some of them I still remember and play to this day. The chorus to Tyler’s song summed up everything I felt on that cold, cloudy day ten years ago and still captures my feelings perfectly.
Always wear your seat belts, guys. If for no other reason, for a sixteen-year-old who had his entire life ahead of him taken away in moments.
Never knew seconds could be enough
Never knew God could take someone so young
Sometimes I wonder, I question fate
Was it meant to be, or was it a mistake?
The rest of the world will go on and on
Acting like nothing was ever wrong
Our lives are paved, but we just don’t know
For now, it’s a broken road
Read the original news article here.