A great act of compassion

Published 9:27 pm Friday, May 1, 2009

A group of John Essex High School students saw a small airplane spiraling toward the ground. Once it made impact, guess what they did.



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No. They grabbed every accessible fire extinguisher between themselves and the football field and rushed toward the burning wreckage.

I couldn’t truthfully say at 16, 17 or 18 years old that would have been my first reaction. I probably would have questioned whether or not I had actually seen what my eyes had just relayed to my brain.

Once it became clear that was the reality, I might have thought about rushing out there. Had that been my course of action, I would have been late.

A handful of John Essex students and a coach would have beaten me to it.

That’s not where the saga of these proactive citizens ends. The students attended the pilot, Mark Keeley’s, memorial service Wednesday.

You hear a lot about “kids these days,” how an entire generation has been ruined by the Internet, cell phones, a lack of respect and general laziness.

The students at John Essex proved that to be an ugly stereotype by doing what most of us would have been too afraid to do: The right thing.

Those students had no way of knowing their efforts would not be enough to preserve Mr. Keeley’s life. They saw a man in need of help, and being in the best position to provide it, they swung into action.

That’s as clear a definition of selflessness as I believe you will find.

I would like to extend my personal appreciation to coach Rodney Dixon, Korey Jones, Letrell Griffen, Mickeil Jowers, Randal Ward, Travis Burrell, Lavaugn Terry, Keonta Alvis, Decarlos Johnson, Devontae Richardson, Demetrius Montgomery, Antonio Bennett, Wayne Bonner, Zachary Fluker, Travoris Merriweather and Sha’Kema Jones for their compassion and their bravery.

April 24, 2009, was supposed to be just another Friday for John Essex students and the Keeley family; two groups who — had Friday not unfolded so tragically — would probably never have known the other existed.

I appreciate that these Marengo County youths aided this family through such a tough time. We all should.

Having spoken to Mr. Keeley’s family this week, it’s clear they are also appreciative.