December 1, 2012. I wasn’t in the area. I didn’t need to be. I was living in Vermont. But it didn’t matter. It still hit home.

I got the news just before midnight, maybe just after, but I don’t remember. There had been a serious car crash in Clifton Park involving four high school students who were just minutes from home on their way back from the Siena/UAlbany men's basketball game at the Times Union Center.

Three of the students were from Shenendehowa, where I had graduated from just four years earlier – and where my brother was a junior at the time.

Then my mom, who delivered the news, said the names of two of those involved: Matt Hardy and Deanna Rivers. I quickly learned the names of the other two students involved: Shen senior Chris Stewart and Shaker senior Bailey Wind.

I attended the Remembrance Ceremony for Deanna Rivers and Chris Stewart this past weekend (Brady Farkas).
I attended the Remembrance Ceremony for Deanna Rivers and Chris Stewart this past weekend (Brady Farkas).

On this two year reminder of that night, we remember the tragic passing of Rivers and Stewart. Rivers, the Shen softball player who wanted to be a teacher, who was one of the stat girls for the Shen Varsity basketball team, who was a friend to my brother who played for that team, who I had said “Hi, how are you?” to just a week or so earlier at a Shen scrimmage.

Stewart, who I didn’t know, save for the fact that he starred on a flag football team with my brother more than 10 years earlier, I quickly learned about. His football prowess, his infectious attitude, his willingness and desire to make everyone around him smile.

And we remember the survivals of Hardy and Wind.  Hardy, who is currently enrolled in college, is someone I have known for a long time. From him being a teammate with my brother since they were five, to me coaching him in summer baseball, to lots of car rides and pickups – he’s a friend, despite being six years younger than me.

Wind, a student at the University of Tennessee.

The knock on Shen – and several of the other big schools that encompass Section II, is that they are too big, too impersonal, that you don’t know enough people that walk through your halls every day.

Maybe they are fair assumptions. Maybe they are right. I didn’t really know the two people that set next to me at graduation. But on that night – and the subsequent weeks and months that followed – you saw just how small a big community can feel.

From the tweets and facebook posts that flowed in that night, to the Candlelight Vigil held shortly after the accident, to the signs of support I saw from several other schools in the Shen hallway, to the remembrance I attended just this past weekend, this is a great community to live, work, and grow up in.

On this two year reminder of that night: Rest in Peace to Deanna Rivers and Chris Stewart. Live long and healthy, Matt Hardy and Bailey Wind. And for the rest of us, stay 518 Strong.


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