March 28, 2009. I sat on the couch with my coffee, wondering if spring was finally here to stay. My dad called, and a few minutes later, Jaycena picked up the spare phone to talk, which always made my day. When she was little, she would fly into my arms when I came to visit and be my little shadow for however long I could stay. When her little brother was born, I had two shadows, and we liked the same things -- laughing, playing games, talking, and hanging out at Grandma and Grandpa's, teasing uncles, and her mom and dad. Now that she was a teenager, I kept expecting the day would come when she would blow me off, or be too cool for a hug. It never happened. She was just too genuine for that nonsense. Jaycena told me she was getting ready for the next volleyball game, and that Laramie had come down with her for the weekend. In a small town, volleyball is a big activity, and she had been looking forward to this fun tournament for weeks. After a quick chat, I wished her luck and said a quick "love you." "Love you too beeg," she said. Those words now have to last a lifetime.
Excerpt from the Southwest Booster, May 7, 2010.
A young offender from the Southwest was sentenced to six months in open custody and was prohibited for driving for three years during sentencing at the Swift Current Court House on Friday morning. The youth had earlier pled guilty in the death of three Southwest teens during a March 28 collision outside the community of Kincaid.
The youth, who can not be identified because he was a young offender at the time of the incident, was handed his sentence during a lengthy judgement by Judge Les Matsalla during Friday’s court sentencing.
The fatal crash caused the deaths of 16 year old Jaycena Mann and Laramie Ross, both of Gravelbourg, and 14 year old Brooke Harbor of Kincaid.
Judge Matsalla had delayed sentencing from earlier in the week in order to reach his decision. In a 25-page ruling, Judge Matsalla commented “By operating his truck as he did, he committed a very serious offence the effect of which has caused incalculable grief to the family and friends of the victims,” the ruling stated. The ruling also notes “he made a conscious decision to ignore the solid line and he undertook to perform a very unusual and very risky manoeuvre by attempting to pass not one but three cars at high speed.”
Judge Matsalla’s ruling imposed a harsher penalty from the joint submission presented to the court that the youth service a deferred custody and supervision order.
“After reviewing the Act and the cases that have considered the principles upon which the Act is based, a six month defered custody and supervision order would not be a fit sentence in the circumstances of this case. Any meaningful sanction must hold (the youth) accountable,” the ruling noted.
The judge tried to give a harsher sentence to the boy since he hit Jaycena, Laramie, and Brook while they were 3/4 through a turn in the intersection. At the time of impact, he was on the wrong side of a solid yellow line, passing 3 cars in succession, illegally passing through an intersection, and speeding. The "black box" from his truck shows he was still accelerating at the point of impact. There were no skid marks as he did not apply brakes (there were tire marks that initiate from her car as it is pushed sideways off the road. Despite it being a triple fatality, the police did not perform a drug or alcohol screen on the offender. Drunk driving is about the only time a young offender may get a serious penalty. In the end, the sanction the judge was able to hand down was not very meaningful. 6 months of closed custody, so 2 months for each life, which means function as usual in the community all day but get tucked into a juvenile facility for bedtime, plus a 3 year driving ban. Nothing can atone for the loss 6 parents suffered that day. The 3 families destroyed. The pain hundreds of people endured attending those 3 funerals that week. The emotional scars still carried by their network of friends...several who were at the accident scene. Nothing can redress the loss of these three amazing girls. I usually try not to think of the boy who was 17.5 when he caused their deaths, but this summer while home I saw him behind the wheel of a semi truck, and I just thought this isn't right. He should not be earning a wage driving. We are failing as a society in how we approach justice. The Young Offenders Act in Canada should be reserved for shoplifting and mischief, it should never be a cloak of protection for actions causing harm...never protect one from punishment for causing death. Maybe it you want to do something important today, you could call your Minister of Parliament and tell him that.
That said, I usually try to focus on the positives., which is all the beauty, love, and laughter they brought into our lives, into the world. Laramie, Jaycena, and Brooke were what I would call intense...there was nothing dull about these girls. Each of them was uniquely hilarious...uniquely vibrant...uniquely exceptional...yet I think that's what they had in common.
Jaycena and Brooke were FUN...they had fun together, they made fun, the enjoyed fun, they embodied fun. Witty comments, sarcasm, imagination, and random acts of hilarity. They were very personable and each had a lot of friends, many mutual...and everyone knew them to be fun.
|Jaycena and Brooke livening up the very quiet town of Hazenmore one spring day|
|"Jay and Larry" go glam|
|Brooke and Jaycena|
Here is Brooke, Jaycena, and Laramie goofing around on the webcam that last night...being the spirited, happy, and lively as usual.
And a short while later...this is one of the last photos taken. They stopped at the local playground and were goofing around (is Laramie being a dinosaur? A bear?). Lar and Jaycena had borrowed some of each others clothes. Who knows what random silly comments lead to this moment...it's one of those things I have the rest of my life to guess about.
These pictures tell a little story about them, but there is no way to really tell their story. They were together that night, but they each had countless friends, countless equally silly photographs and memories with literally hundreds of other kids. Jaycena's story, Brooke's story, Laramie's story...with characters like Strike, Chaz, Andrea, Cody, a cast of hundreds... The stories are each held in snapshots of hundreds of other people's facebook albums, in snippets of hundreds of other people's memories....they are carried in hundreds of other hearts. I hold just one chapter in this fascinating trilogy of stories.
We all remember today...and every day...we all remember differently. I remember a little girl I carried in my arms and hauled around on piggyback....
...and I remember kittens and birds and tadpoles to Britney Spears, from Barney to Balto, Cypress Hills to Dominican Republic, baby to young lady...and everything in between. I miss your smile and the sound of your voice, your stories, and your enthusiasm and imagination and the giggle that resulted from it. I miss your creativity, your talent, you beauty, your love and acceptance of us all for whoever we were.
I miss who you might be.
I miss your hug when I go home. I miss whatever was supposed to have been these past 6 years...I miss things without even knowing for sure what I would be missing. I just know without you, everything is incomplete. I came across this the other day and thought it said it best.