It was a Tuesday.
WHAT!?! A terrorist attack? No! No! This can't be happening! Our country, our world...we were all, suddenly, shocked to our very core...and we have never been the same.
I will never forget John, in Kansas City at seminary, calling home the day after to check on Daniel yet again. How was he doing? How was he handling the tragedy?
"How was your day at school today, Daniel?" John asked.
"Good, Daddy," Daniel replied, in his quiet, little third-grade voice. "No planes fell out of the sky today."
Eight years later, Sept. 11, 2009, I am pinning a red, white and blue ribbon on my CR-B Crusaders sweatshirt, the ribbon a handmade token of patriotic remembrance from one of my office co-workers. I carefully attach the ribbon just above and to the right of Daniel's junior year football pin.
I gently pat the pin. Heavy sigh...
And then I think to myself, "Has it really been only eight years?" Seems like forever that our country's heart has been laden with the painful and complicated aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy. Yet, we, as a country, and all the families of those loved ones lost, have somehow, through heartfelt memoirs, fitting tributes, and special anniversary observances, found some healing and the strength to move forward from that horrific moment in time.
My hand moves slowly from the ribbon and the football pin to touch the pair of silver metal memorial dog tags dangling from a simple necklace chain around my neck. I feel the raised lettering on the tags.
He had dreamed of one day joining the Marines...
"Casey Daniel Stork, 1993-2009"
"Forever In Our Hearts"
I still get goosebumps.
It was a Wednesday.
WHAT?!? A car accident? NO! NO! THIS CANNOT BE HAPPENING!
We were all suddenly shocked to our collective core. Has it only been two months? Seems like forever that our hearts have been so heavy with sorrow...we are all still dazed by disbelief as we continue to grapple with the stark, heart wrenching reality of it all...
We all miss Casey so very much, and we all are so very thankful that we still have Daniel. Loss and thankfulness, loss and thankfulness...And we live day to day, hour to hour, in the balance.
"How is Daniel doing?" everyone kindly asks.
That is a tough question to answer. It is hard to know, fully, just yet. On the surface, we all seem to be doing as well as can be expected under the circumstances. Who among us doesn't still cringe when we pass the accident site on our way to Carroll? Timber Avenue...it is our own private Ground Zero. It is where the proverbial planes fell out of the sky once more...and we will never be the same.
Accidents, illness, the sudden loss of a loved one...Certainly, the list of personal 9/11s that we all, as human beings, experience over the course of our lives, is varied and endless. How do we overcome these tragedies? How do we, as adults, heal? How do we, in this instance, help our heartbroken, teenage children -- Casey's friends -- heal?
"When I was your age, my best friend died, too," my 25-year-old niece, Liz, wrote to Daniel the other day. "Her name was Rachel. She died of cancer. It was different circumstances than what you've had to face, and I don't pretend to know how you feel. But one thing I do know: when you lose your best friend at age 16, it changes you. It becomes part of who you are. There's no use fighting that.
"My advice" Liz continued, "is to take all the good things about Casey, and all the lessons learned because of this tragedy, and try very hard to use them for good. Keep moving forward and take Casey with you."
Indeed, the upcoming installation of the Casey Stork Memorial football scoreboard at the high school, and the subsequent dedication being planned by his classmates, is a healthy step toward doing just that. It is a triumph, of sorts; a positive, healing event to focus on, not only for Casey's family and many friends, but also for the community at large.
Casey Daniel Stork.
Forever in our hearts.
And now, to be forever remembered at one of the places Casey was happiest...the Coon Rapids- Bayard High School football field.
We love you, #85!