Sunday, January 22, 2006

It was just five years ago...

The crossroads at 70th & Cornhusker... (Lincoln, Nebraska)
It was January 22nd, 2001 - Shawn Spencer was leaving his job in his new fix-up truck (a 1953 Ford) he had just purchased. I truck that I had rode in on New Years.
A semi-truck driver ran a red light that hit Shawn, killing him.

Shawn was best friends with my Godson's dad Mike, who at that time - had become one of my good friends as well.

I was living in Omaha, Mike hadn't called me until later that night to tell me what happened, and in disbelief - I remember asking the dumb question, "Are you serious?"

I was already in bed, half asleep, and then half in disbelief. I changed, made a phone call to work, and headed to Lincoln. No stereo on the trip, just had a million 'why' thoughts running in my head. His fiancé Becky crossed my mind halfway to Lincoln and I stretched to fathom what she (and his parents) must be going through. Before I arrived Shawn's house where everyone was gathering, I drove by the scene of the accident.

I saw the truck, torn apart in many different directions... 'torn' wouldn't even begin to describe how I felt.

I made it to the house and saw a crowd of people, some I knew, others I assumed he worked with. Family was mostly in Missouri.

I saw Becky, his fiancé of a few months - she was in a daze, neither said anything as we hugged. I don't recall the expression on Mike's face, but we spent a few minutes in my car listening to songs that gave us some type of comfort.

In his house (an odd place to be without him), we all sat around and watched the news... what I found odd was the reporter explained how the EMT found Shawn. It was very factual, but if you knew the person - the facts were all too unreal. I was sitting next to Becky at the time and as soon as I heard the reporter I wanted to grab the remote and mute it and turn it off. The description of how he was found is too hard to write even now.

The memorial service a few days later is vivid in my memory. It wasn't in the sanctuary, but in their fellowship hall. The message didn't come from the pastor, but from the family and friends who attended the celebration of Shawn's life. Each person stood up where they were or used a podium and spoke about Shawn and shared memories. Shawn's family who live in Missouri got to hear about their son from his friend's point of view - those of us who knew him since his move to Lincoln a few years before.

Each year on this day, Mike & I talk briefly about Shawn. I lost touch with Becky, and I don't know if Mike still talks to her.

His boss was quoted as saying, "Shawn was the kind of guy who would do anything for anybody. He was soft-spoken, tender-hearted - the kind of guy everybody loved working with."

After the accident and years later, "With Hope" by Steven Curtis Chapman plays and comforts me as I reflect on a young life lost.

Driving home from Lincoln yesterday, I passed 70th and Cornhusker. I don't do it often, but I knew the next day (today) would be the anniversary of the day that driver ran a red light. Eventually, Mike and I want to put together a tribute in a form of a book called Red Light about Shawn. Because of that red light, many lives were forever changed.


Adam said...

I've driven that intersection a thousand times, and I actually remember when that happened. I didn't know that you knew him.

Life changes so often, and one of the things that I thought about Saturday afternoon was that things are either alive, or they're dying. I don't know how it came up, but I was leaving to go to the gym and I was taking out the trash and I got to thinking about the trash and how it smells bad because it's decaying, it's dead. But me, I'm alive. I have today, it's a fresh canvas, what am I going to paint?

'Do or do not, there is no try.'

Chad said...

What is also odd is that another friend witnessed the accident and my dad used to work at a company on that intersection and heard the sirens that day and wondered what happened until I called them that night.