Thirteen years. It has been thirteen years…
I would like to say it’s gotten easier, but the memories are still just as crystal clear as the moment it all happened. Every single year, the replay goes through my mind and because of that, I typically go into isolation mode for the 4th of July. It definitely has not been a favorite holiday of mine.
I’ve never went this deep before and I’m not even sure I’ve ever really talked to many about it. I’ll be honest, whatever comes out, comes out. This is how I’m grieving it this year in this moment, so bare with me.
July 3, 2007.
Ugh…where do I even start?
Liza. We weren’t quite as close as we had been. We practically lived at each other’s houses all through middle school and into high school. My mom would even ask what kind of groceries she wanted because she was always there. She had the best sense of humor and we did EVERYTHING together.
Tara. I’ll never forget when she first moved to Holgate and was in math class. We clicked right then and there and became the best of friends as well.
We all played sports and Holgate is super small so we all hung out at the same parties and spent a lot of time around one another.
It was just another summer day. We started off the morning with an open gym for basketball, later in the day heading to a basketball scrimmage just to book it straight to cheerleading practice right after.
Tara and I weren’t on good terms. I was pissed at her for some stupid reason that I don’t really remember. I just know that I left from a party we had went to together that prior weekend upset with her and refused to talk to her…waiting for her to come to me and ask me what was wrong. Then, I would tell her why I was upset with her. Until then, I wouldn’t even look at her at practices, wouldn’t pass the ball to her during the scrimmage and just completely avoided her.
That night at practice, I overheard her talking to one of the other cheerleaders about going out that night…I played dumb and acted uninterested. It was just another day.
Late that evening, I was lying on the couch at home and my mom was with my cousins helping them bail. She randomly called the house phone. I answered and immediately she said, “JAYME! Are you home!?”
“….Um yeah, Mom. Obviously. You just called the house phone. Why are you freaking out?”
“Liza and Tara were in a car accident. There was a third person with them but they didn’t say who it was.”
Cold. My stomach dropped.
I grabbed my cell phone, jumped in my car and started blowing up my friend Kati’s phone. I sped to her house. I began banging on the door and said what my mom had just shared with me.
Fear. Time felt like it wasn’t moving yet it was speeding so quickly all at the same time. Next thing I know, we were all standing in one of my teammate’s driveway. Waiting for an update…All that we knew was that life flight was called.
All of a sudden, I get a call from my cousin.
“Jayme…Liza and Tara…they didn’t make it. They are both gone.”
I dropped to the ground and began screaming at the top of my lungs. Kati’s mom yanked the phone out of my hand and said, “Who the hell is this? This isn’t a joke. What did you just say!?!”
It’s all so clear and yet all such a blur.
Our basketball coach was there. So many of us…standing in the yard. Tears…so many tears. The priest showed up and we joined in a prayer circle. Kati and I went to Tara’s house and sat there with her mom. Bawling…this can’t be real….there’s no way.
We stayed up all night…talking…crying…sitting there in silence.
I didn’t want to go to sleep. I was so so scared to go to sleep. I didn’t want to have dreams about them…scratch that…I didn’t want to relive the nightmare that was already lying right in front of me. I refused to be in a car with someone. The only way I was willing to go anywhere was if I was driving.
…That next day, though, we went to the hospital to visit Hannah. She was so lucky to be alive.
We were all just teenagers.
Teenagers trying to even be able to figure out our hormonal changes but now being forced to process the death of not one but two of our close peers, while being happy for the safety of another. The fear, pain and memories that must have been and still goes through Hannah’s mind…my heart lies heavy.
Our parents…trying to be strong for us while they try to process and grieve as well.
Liza and Tara’s parents.
Some of the strongest people I know. The pain they were enduring…yet they were holding US and staying strong…for us…
Never is it a fun time to have to sit at a viewing from the death of a loved one…but let me tell you…having to walk across the street from one showing to the next…longest day of my life.
It didn’t seem real. Staring into those caskets…it’s not them. There’s no way. Someone just make this nightmare end. We were just at practice…this can’t be the end. This can’t be the last time we see you…not like this… it can’t be…it shouldn’t be.
…but it was. The numbness yet intensity of so much pain was at a brutal high.
Then, the funeral. It was packed. So many people were there. It had impacted so so many. The two girls were unbelievable. So much life, energy and potential was in their future.
Liza’s funeral was first. As if bouncing across the street from one showing to the next didn’t suck enough, leaving one funeral to go sit through another really crushes an individual…a community.
Liza’s mom let us come over and grab some of Liza’s clothes so she could always be with us. A sweatshirt I still wear to this day.
Tara …ugh.. I was mad at her.
After the funeral I was talking with Sarah and she shared with me that Tara had even asked what she had done wrong…
“I think Jayme is mad at me and I have no idea why.”
That was her last impression of me.
I never was able to tell her I was sorry. I was never able to tell her how much she meant to me.
Liza and I had been so close for so many years and had just started to get close again. I didn’t have enough time…I took for granted my friendships with both of them.
One of the hardest lessons I’ve learned in this life.
Never will I ever leave someone on a bad note. You truly never know what that last moment is…those last words…will be with someone.
I wonder what they would be doing now…
I’m sure they would be impacting many. They were both so full of life and always brought a smile to someone’s face.
Liza and Tara-you still are so so loved and are thought about often. Although you were taken from us far too soon, your spirits still carry on and are alive within us today. We love you. We miss you.
This year will be another year that I sit in these thoughts…wishing that these horrific memories weren’t something I held onto so clearly…yet so blessed I was able to know them both…even if only for a short moment of my life.
So to everyone reading this, please be safe this holiday weekend. Let this be your reminder to leave every conversation on a loving and positive note. Appreciate the moments you have with those in your life. Remember not to take these moments for granted.
With Love and Vulnerability,