At the risk of bumming people out, I am going to do a post to observe the 20th anniversary of my dear friend Liz's brother's passing. Jon was only 22 years old, and the only son.
I can't believe it's been 20 years. Life goes on after someone passes away, but when you think of all the events that happen over the course of 20 years, what your loved one has missed, it's just staggering. Jon never got to meet Liz's children. He never got to see their younger sister graduate from high school or college, as she was only 10 at the time. Holidays. Family triumphs, family defeats. Graduations. Milestones. The list goes on.
I searched through my photo albums but unfortunately, I have no photos of Jon to share. I wasn't in the habit of taking pictures of my friends' siblings, although I could have sworn I had one of him from Liz's wedding in 1985, but I don't.
Jon and I had a great relationship, based upon mutual teasing. He was a year behind us in school and into heavy metal, but he always dressed really nicely; Liz & I were into punk. I would dedicate really awful songs to Jon during my & Liz's radio shift just to get a laugh. Then when I was at her house, he'd tease me and blast his heavy metal to drown out our punk!! Sandwich High could be a difficult place to go to school if you were considered "different", and Liz & I were defintely different. So therefore, she and I took a great deal of nasty teasing from many of the other "preppy" or "jock" kids. Jon always took up for us gals if he heard any taunting, esp. from his own group of friends. I always appreciated that.
I remember a couple of days before Liz & I departed for our respective colleges our freshman year, Jon graciously let us use his fantastic stereo (which he'd saved his own money to buy) so that we could tape each other's records all afternoon.
Jon went to West Point. Once Liz married and moved to Vermont, I didn't see him all that often although Liz always kept me up to date on what her siblings were doing.
Then came December, 1987. And this is the thing that really hit me hard. As you know, I used to work at a TV station in Boston, Channel 56. I worked swing shift, 3:15 - 11:15, and my apartment was in East Sandwich, so I'd get home close to 12:15 a.m. Traffic was always extremely light that time of night.
I left work as usual at 11:15 on December 23rd. As I crossed over the Sagamore Bridge and got on the Mid-Cape Highway at a little past midnight, what few cars were in front of me began to slow down, and then come to a dead stop. I could see up ahead far enough and there was an accident. The median strip on that part of the highway is narrow and flat, so, being my father's daughter, I did a median-strip U-turn, and got back on the northbound lanes, so that I could exit before re-crossing the Bridge. As I made my way down Rte. 6A into downtown, my thoughts were full of Crissmiss, and seeing friends and family. I noticed the fire trucks & ambulance leaving as I passed the fire station.
The next day, December 24th, I went to work and talked to a couple of news videographers, Paul and Randy, who also lived on the Cape. I asked if they got caught in the traffic and they told me that they were one of the first cars to stop, and they had gotten out to try and help, and of course, shot video. This is the part I'm really hazy on....I have a memory of seeing raw footage from a nighttime car accident, but I just don't remember if it was that night. But because I have this memory of seeing raw footage of a car accident, I believe that I must have seen what Randy & Paul shot. Fortunately, neither of the guys shot the injured people.
I was staying at my parents' for Crissmiss Eve, and I arrived there a little after midnight; I'd even forgotten about my conversation with Randy and Paul. My parents greeted me at the door but they were very quiet & subdued, and acting strange. They asked me to please sit down. I sat on the parson's bench in their kitchen and waited expectantly. Then they broke the news that the accident from the night before involved 3 guys from Sandwich High, and that Jon had been killed. The other 2 boys were injured, but alive. I sat there stunned & numb. I knew the other 2 boys of course....Sandwich was a small town back then and I went to school with these kids; one of them rode the school bus with me and the other boy's mom was a substitute teacher. They were often hanging out with Jon at the same time I was hanging out with Liz at their house.
I just busted out crying. Not only for Liz's family's profound loss, especially on Crissmiss Eve, but for the other 2 kids and their families. I mean, they will have to live with this accident for the rest of their lives, knowing that the driver's poor judgment killed their best friend. Speed. Possible alcohol. BMW. A 22 year old boy at the wheel. Not paying attention b/c it's the holidays & they were coming home from a hayride. It was a recipe for disaster. The saddest & most ironic part of the story is that the 2 kids that lived weren't wearing seatbelts and were ejected from the car; Jon however was belted in the back seat and never had a chance.
Can you imagine having the cops show up at your door in the middle of the night, on December 24th, and find out they are there to tell you one of your children is gone? It's horrible to find that out at any time of the year, but during the holidays is especially bad.
The other super sick thing was that for many months afterward, you could still see the skid marks and the damaged tree in the median, right before Exit 2. I would think of Jon every single time I was on that part of the highway...you couldn't help it with that horrid reminder on the pavement and tree, and what a terrible thing it was for Jon's family, if they took the highway to get anywhere.
I went to Jon's funeral with Holly, and he is buried at the National Cemetery in Bourne because he was a West Point cadet. I remember us being at Liz's house after the graveside service, but I must have blocked the specific details of that day out of grief, except that it was a very cold, clear day, and hearing "Taps" played and then echoed in the cemetery was devastating and heartbreaking.
I think of Jon, quite often, especially this time of year. I am still very close to Liz and my thoughts always go out to her and her family each December, as they sadly mark each anniversary and try to salvage the holiday season.