On Sunday night, I was packing and getting ready for my flight the next morning to Milford, Pennsylvania, where I was scheduled to speak at Delaware Valley High School. I was only home for 18 hours and didn’t want to leave. It hurt my heart, but I also love what I do.
I got a phone call at 7:12 the next morning from Dr. Brian Blaum, the principal. He told me that one of their juniors, Kyle Pascoe, was killed in a horrific car accident while coming home from a friend’s house on Sunday night.
Dr. Blaum also told me that he had decided that it was best for me not to do the suicide prevention assembly for which I was scheduled. Of course, I completely agreed – but I told him that he couldn’t find a person more experienced with teen trauma, hardship and loss than myself. I offered to come anyway, to serve the staff and counselors and kids in any way that I could.
I made the trip. When I arrived, I was greeted by Dr. Blaum along with superintendent Dr. John Bell and school psychologist Matthew Vitale.
We walked around the building, and I saw the kids, some leaning against their lockers, many of them crying with their friends. The compassion I noticed among these young people was palpable, and it was like the weight of grief was laying heavily in that space. I stopped to check on them and introduced myself, explaining why I was there. I said I wished I had the words, but in a situation like this, there are no words. I encouraged them to just breathe and told them that being together and staying in school was the best thing that they could be doing.
Kyle played on the football team, and they were really having a hard time. We pulled head coach Keith Olsommer out of class and talked to him, and we decided to bring the team down into the auditorium. I spoke to the football team for about a half-hour, and then we gave them all permission to go back to the field house – to just be together in the environment they shared with Kyle.
And then the team showed me his locker. They had already set it up with his jersey and his helmet – and for 20 minutes we sat there at the locker. They told stories about Kyle – about what a nice guy he was, how fun he was. It was a very special moment during a very difficult situation, and I am very proud of those kids.
At lunch, it was all about crisis planning with the administration and evaluating how they handled the morning. They ask me how they could have improved, but I had no worries. They were amazing.
The girls field hockey team was also struggling. One of their seniors was Kyle’s friend, and the accident happened after Kyle left her house. The young lady was not in school, but we decided to call her and her parents to let them know that the best place for her to be was in school, and that the team needed her.
We rushed to her house, picked her up and brought her back to school.
After school, the team was still deciding whether or not they were going to play. The girls were in a lot of pain.
I talked a little bit about life and told them that being together is the best thing that they could do. I asked them to think hard about their decision to play or not to play. This was a district playoffs game, and they earned the right to be there.
They decided to play. Kyle would probably have wanted them to play.
These brave young ladies taped the number 10 – Kyle’s number – on their sticks and headed out to play. I had the privilege of watching them win that evening.
I am super proud of them.
Tough times. Resilient kids. Dr. Blaum and his awesome staff were present, ready and handled the day amazingly well.
I am so sorry for your loss.