(For those who are faithful readers, I apologize that I have not been good about getting articles up on Sunday. It's not our webmaster, who is tops. It's not your computer or internet connection. It's me. For quite some time I have found it difficult to respond in a timely manner. This weekend is the only good reason I have for a late posting.)
It's the call that every parent fears. The call came on Saturday morning to 6 sets of parents. "There's been an accident."
As pastor in a small community, I got a call just a few minutes later saying simply: "There's been an accident. Pray." I knew nothing more than that for about 10 minutes. Then I heard the news from dear friends of mine: "it was our wrestling squad and their coach in a head on collision. We're on the way to the hospital. Pray."
It was at 9:50am on Saturday morning when the blur started for a little community in northwest Iowa and their community school. As I write this on Thursday morning, I still think that it has been a bad dream and I'm waiting to wake up.
For an overview, here's what our communities and the boys have been through.
Within a few short hours on Saturday, the hospital was crawling with high school students, parents and concerned community members from all over the area. The few times the hospital got a break from all the kids was when it was announced that there would be a candlelight prayer service at the school auditorium. With no announcement other than kids texting kids and word of mouth, close to 400 people showed up at the school to hear updates and to show their support for the students. To put that number in perspective, there are about 650 students in the school district in grades preschool through 12th grade.
Updates have gone out to the students on Sunday afternoon at school, another prayer service Sunday night and twice daily at the school all week.
Another aspect of the tragedy is that the one fatality, the driver of the other vehicle, was a parent of a high school student at the same school.
But there has been good news in the midst of tragedy. As of now, one student (Jordan Mitchell) has been discharged. Another student (Sage Washburn) and the coach (Dan Thompson) have had the orthopedic surgeries needed and are recovering in the hospital. One student (Adam Greeno) who was in critical condition upon arriving at the hospital and was the first into surgery, was removed from ICU within 48 hours and is now up and has walked the hall. He is in a private room next door to one of his teammates.
Two students (Blake Jorgensen and Trent Baker) continue to be in ICU, one with internal injuries and multiple broken bones in his leg; the other with back injuries and some paralysis. Both are showing progress and the one with back injuries has been approved for transfer to Craig Rehabilitation Hospital in Denver, CO.
If this accident has shown anything is that when you live in a small community, you are more than neighbors or classmates. You're family. The outpouring of support is overwhelming to the families. Even though the medical care because of this accident will cost well over a million dollars, there are some things that money can't buy. One is the support, love and prayers of a community united together. For the families, that, in the words of a popular television commercial, is priceless.
But as important as that support has been, the financial support is needed too. Funds have been set up at the local bank and fundraisers are already being planned, the first to be held on the 23rd of November.
You hate tragedies like this but we can be encouraged because of the support being shown.
Thanks to all of the first responders, many who were neighbors to these kids. Thanks to the Westwood community for their support. Thanks to the leadership and clear thinking of individuals such as the school superintendent, Kirk Ahrends, who has been out in front with the media and the community. Thanks to the medical personnel who worked long hours to care for and even rebuild our kids. Thanks to people from around the country that have prayed and called to offer support. It is needed and will continue to be needed for all of us.
If my readers would like to extend their support to the families and the boys, here is a list of possibilities:
- PRAY, needs no stamp and cost you nothing that will break the budget.
- NOTES OF ENCOURAGEMENT for families can be sent in care of Westwood Community School, Sloan, IA 51055.
- For the two boys still in ICU, you can send a note on line through www.caringbridge.org. for Blake Jorgensen and Trent Baker and their families (use their names with no space between first and last name)
- TAX DEDUCTIBLE FINANCIAL GIFTS to the Evangelical Covenant Church Crisis Fund, PO Box R, Sloan, IA 51055.
11/23/2008: The better news about this story is that one week later, four of the six individuals are out of the hospital. Even though therapy will continue, they are able to be at home. Trent Baker has had another successful surgery and is walking some each day and doing well in Physical Therapy. Blake Jorgensen was transferred to Craig Rehabilitation Center where he will begin an intensive recovery regimen. All their friends hope to see these young men back in prime form as soon as possible.