It is hard when it hits so close to home
Camden — There are times in my life when I second guess my choice of profession. I love covering the area where I grew up and the community that I live in, but the drawback to this is when something tragic happens, it always hits too close to home.
This past weekend it was my turn in the weekend duty rotation, which is duty for the entire company. This meant that my coverage area triples, not just covering the goings-on in my normal coverage area.
I awoke early Saturday morning to hear of two teens hit by a truck in Waldoboro, so I began to collect information to write a story. On my way to the office I dropped my son off with a friend and headed to work to do more research.
A few minutes later my son texted me and told me news that made my stomach wrench — two of his friends, Tyler Wood and Antonio Seccareccio, were the ones hit, and it looked like Tyler wasn't going to make it.
A parent's worst nightmare had been realized, and the powerless feeling of not being able to do or say anything to change that absolutely killed me.
My first reaction was that of disbelief. Then my focus quickly changed to my son, his friends and the extended family, who would be affected. Soon my phone began to ring, and messages poured in through text and email from concerned friends, figuring if anybody knew anything it would be me.
Torn between the possible loss of a child who I considered one of my own, a teammate, my son's wrestling partner and friend, I called my editor because, honestly, I just didn't know how to handle it.
She talked me through it, made me realize that — even though it is the hardest thing we as journalists have to do — it fell on me for a reason. Although, I'm not sure what that reason is.
After touching base with Tyler's mother, I was confident that my little buddy wasn't going to make it. I was in shock, just like everyone else who had ties to such a fun spirit. Finding words, or even trying to complete a thought was impossible. My mind was racing, wondering, worrying about his teammates on the football and wrestling teams, Antonio and his family, and others affected by this tragedy.
The endless rumors on Facebook angered me. I know it is an incredible tool and a fast way to get information out, but when people post things that are mean-spirited and just outright disrespectful, I wonder what the heck is wrong with people. It just makes a sad, sad situation harder for the family and true friends as they begin the healing process. To those who make it their drama and cause more for those involved, all I have to say is: "Grow up."
I met Tyler and Antonio four or five years ago; they both were part of the Camden-Rockport Middle School wrestling team and I'd pop in from time to time and teach them a few things about the sport. In 2013 I took over the team and my son, Zac, Tyler and Elvis Bowen were the three amigos and team leaders. As they moved onto the high school I couldn't have been any more proud to watch them progress. Antonio was a grade younger and I was devastated when his mother told me they were moving to Waldoboro and would not be back to wrestle next year.
Tyler was a prankster. He loved to tell jokes and make people laugh. On a few occasions I had to remind him of his audience and to tone it down a bit — then I'd go tell the joke to someone else.
Zac and Tyler were the perfect workout partners in the wrestling room. Many nights their battles took center stage, and although Zac had more experience, Tyler's heart wouldn't let him quit, and on many occasions, Zac got a chance to inspect the lights in the practice room lying on his back — well, frankly — because Tyler never gave up.
I remember one night in particular when their scramble led them both head-first into a wall. Tyler just shook it off after stumbling around for a minute or two, while Zac could barely lift himself off the mat. Within a minute the two were back at it, tossing each other around like it never happened.
On the football field, Tyler was a little undersized, but had very good athletic ability and above average hands, making him an important piece to the team's success this season.
As a coach, you build a relationship with your athletes that goes beyond the field, mat, court or pitch. Each one of those kids becomes yours, in loco parentis — in the place of a parent. It is a term I use often because the truth of the matter is, some athletes spend as much time, or sometimes even more time with coaches than their parents. I know for a fact that there is a group of coaches out there right now who feel the loss, just like he was one of their own, including me.
Words can't express the feeling the entire community is feeling after Tyler's passing. I only hope that his family and friends find peace in the fact that even after death, he will do what he does best, helping others and saving many lives with his gift of organ donation.
I love ya, little buddy, and be sure of this, you made quite an impact in just 15 years, and I will always wonder who you would have become.
Antonio, stay strong and get well soon. Coach is always here for you, and I know for a fact that Tyler will still be looking out for you.