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  • Writer's pictureashleylodato

The worst club in the world

I don’t know how to write about last Tuesday’s car accident on Twisp River Road that resulted in the death of one local 19-year-old girl, as well as serious injuries to two other young people from our area. But I don’t know how to not write about it, either.

Most of us can’t possibly understand what it feels like to be a member of what I’ve heard referred to as “the worst club in the world” but we can imagine the private, personal, unbearable pain that somehow parents who have lost a child have to bear. Because each morning they wake up (assuming they’ve slept) and remember: one more day without their child behind them, a lifetime of days like that still ahead—a nightmare on repeat.

The day after word about Kierra’s death spread through the community, a student described walking through Winthrop on their lunch break from a job downtown. Many of the businesses were, as usual, staffed by local teens—selling tchotchkes, scooping ice cream, steaming lattes. Winthrop was bustling with tourists and with Rhythm & Blues concertgoers, all blissfully unaware of the tragedy that had just rocked our community. But beneath the buzz of visitors pulsed an undercurrent of grief—all these kids reeling at cash registers, numbly ringing up purchases.

Thursday night, a crowd of students, parents, teachers, coaches, and community members gathered at the high school football field to face the heartache together. It was eerily reminiscent of graduation, where we had gathered a scant six weeks prior. But where graduation was all noise and celebration, Thursday’s vigil was hushed, as those present stood heavy with their sorrow, feeling the loss of a friend, classmate, teammate, sister, and daughter.

News accounts are referring to the four people involved in the accident as “women” and “men,” which they technically are, but to me, as well as to so many other parents in this cohort, they are still just kids. There they are, goofing around on the ski hill. There they are, wearing their first formal dresses for the sixth-grade dance. There they are, in green commencement gowns, handing yellow roses to their mothers, taking selfies with their diplomas. There they are, one foot out of childhood, showing budding signs of the adults they will blossom into, but still sleeping with their favorite stuffed animals.

There may be things Kierra’s family needs and wants from us in the weeks and months and years ahead. There will be ways to remember Kierra. But for now, mostly we can just grieve for her and for her family. We can’t feel or lessen their singular pain but we can, perhaps, with enough courage and grace, help them bear at least a little bit of it.

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