On this day 49 years ago a man working for my folks was standing by the radio in our rural general store listening intently through the static with furrowed brows. For whatever reason he drew my 14 year-old attention, maybe he waved me over, but for whatever reason I was drawn. I walked over there to hear what he was listening to. Within a few seconds, I was tilted back on my heels as I heard the panicked words about a football bus wreck on Monarch. I bet I turned white for he gave me a hug. He understood the magnitude of the scene better than most; he was a retired mortician.

I wandered away, my thoughts turning inside my head and suddenly I thought of my good friend Wes Marshall; he was on that bus. At that time, I had no idea who played Jr. Varsity football, but because I worked at a stable with Wes I knew of the trip that day and that he was there. I was distraught.

It wasn’t until a few minutes later I began to think of all my classmates that might be on that bus. Of the young boys on their way to a football game that day, I had schooled with a few my entire life, from church choir to Sunday school and kindergarten. The news kept coming; bus opened like a can, bodies in various condition strewn over the mountain side, lost brakes and something about a sign post. Parents following the bus watched it all. God, it became a blur.

We didn’t have “grief counselors” then, we had only ourselves to fold over the raw emotions, to wrap ourselves in thoughts, seeking some kind of comfort. The time was honest to God emotional bloodletting and slowly it all ran together in groups where disbelief was shared, and shock turned into resolve for the injured mattered. People mattered, a lesson far too many now have never learned.

The experience made us one at Gunnison High School. Some of us good friends for life, but most a tight knit community in knowing unison. We all shared the pain, the loss and the cheers for the recovering.

We were, and still, remain one in remembrance of lives lost too early. Sons, brothers, husbands and friends. One out of many.

Bless you my friends…

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