Having spent the better part of my Thanksgiving weekend relaxing in front of the television at home and watching football games on television, I would like to take time now to reflect on some holiday thoughts.
Even though Miami-Syracuse and USC-Notre Dame Saturday really weren’t exciting games, it was fun to watch Heisman Trophy candidates Ken Dorsey, Willis McGahee and Carson Palmer. There were some great games, too … Arkansas 21-20 over LSU, Alabama 21-16 over Hawaii, UNLV 36-33 over Colorado State, and Oklahoma State’s 38-28 upset of No. 3 Oklahoma. I’ll even admit it was fun to tune the radio to LaDainian Tomlinson and the San Diego Chargers in their 30-27 overtime win against the Denver Broncos on Sunday.
And then there was one not-so-widely known game I read about on the Internet, a Louisiana Class 5A high school quarterfinal playoff game Friday night between Archbishop Rummel High School and C.E. Byrd in Shreveport. This was an overtime thriller that came down to the final play before Rummel secured its 21-20 victory before a crowd of 5,000.
But the story behind this game comes in the form of a reality check, a tragic automobile accident that occurred earlier on Friday morning and took the life of an 18-year-old member of the 105-member Rummel Raider Marching Band in the New Orleans suburb of Metairie.
Christopher Segari died and three friends were injured when their Nissan Sentra veered out of control and crashed into the back of a parked truck on their way to school, where they were to meet fellow band members for the 5 1/2-hour drive to Shreveport. All four were wearing seat belts.
Segari, a member of the band’s drum line, and his twin sister had just celebrated their 18th birthdays the previous Sunday. He planned to attend the University of New Orleans and study computer science, his father told The Times-Picayune of New Orleans. Given his love of computers, he joined the Rummel Web Crew and helped create the band’s own Internet site.
After the waiting band members at the school learned of the accident, a decision was made to stay together as a group and they drove to the game, which the Rummel Raiders (12-1) won on the final play of the night when Nick Child crashed through to block the potential game-tying PAT kick attempt in overtime to preserve the one-point lead.
In this case, a win or loss pales in comparison to a reality check.
The same goes for a story by Associated Press sports writer Tim Dahlberg that chronicled the October crash of a bus carrying the Kansas School for the Deaf’s football team — 34 students, coaches and cheerleaders. The bus crashed when it failed to negotiate a slight turn at a speed in excess of 80 mph and plunged down a grassy embankment between a railroad bridge and the road near the tiny community of Sharon Springs, Kan.
The situation was potentially grave considering the isolated location of the crash, but a passing motorist saw the crash and immediately informed local authorities. Namely the only lawman in Wallace County, Sheriff Larry Townsend.
Sharon Springs is a farming and ranching community of about 800 — “It’s somewhat of a cross between Mayberry and Dodge City,” Townsend explained — located in rural Kansas, approximately 40 miles from the nearest hospital.
News of the crash immediately spread and the town’s two volunteer ambulances raced to the crash, while five others responded from other counties. In all, 13 volunteer firefighters and 16 volunteer medics went to the scene, not to mention the dozens who showed up to do anything they could to help out.
Miraculously, nearly everyone survived, many with broken bones and deep contusions. Tragically, assistant coach Lory Kuschmider died from injuries in the crash. His two sons, Kyle and Chester, were among the survivors.
The one loss came as a major blow to students at Kansas School for the Deaf, where Kuschmider was a teacher, overnight dorm supervisor and coach. He was known as a calm presence; someone who was a success even though he was deaf. When Kuschmider spoke to players, he would always begin by saying with his hands, “Important, that you…”
At this school, players use hand signals and touches to communicate. Instead of yelling, they wave. After the bus crash, rescuers showed up and saw the youngsters pleading for help with their hands.
“People showed up to help that didn’t know these kids or where they came from. And we could have had 10 times more if we needed it,” said EMT Amy Sharp. “That’s what being in a small community is all about.”
It’s simply another reminder of the big picture and how we need to cherish what we have, one day at a time, because you never know how long the ride is going to last.
Lastly, and certainly not least, with Christmas and New Year’s fast approaching, take care when you get behind the wheel of that car.