I remember it clearly. I was a sophomore, attending Silverton Union High School in Silverton, Oregon. The day started out pretty normal. I showed up, hung out with a few friends, stared in awe as a couple of cute girls walked down the hall, and then went to class. It was not until about two hours into the school day that things started to get weird. In between classes I felt like everyone was looking at me. The cute girls were giving me smiles. Not the kind of smile a young man in school wants to get from a girl, but a sad “I am sorry” kind of smile. My mind was reeling. What the hell was going on?
Soon enough the joke was out. Someone stopped and gave me a hug telling me “I am so sorry about your brother.”
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Oh my God! You haven’t heard? He was killed in a car crash about an hour ago. I am so sorry!”
I knew this was not true, because I had just seen him. Right before school as I was getting ready to leave, and I knew that if it were true, my parents would have called the school. I let this person know that I did not think the joke was funny, and continued on to my next class.
All day this continued. “You are so strong Eric. I can’t believe you are here considering what happened.” was the quote of the day. The sad smiles continued, the condolences were non stop, and my anger at this pathetic prank continued to grow.
After school as I prepared to go to my friend Jamey’s house there was one more set of condolences. Another friend telling me that I was strong and brave. This poor soul was almost the final straw. I let into him with a fury of words and came pretty close to hitting him. I was fed up. I love my brother, and in no way found where any humour could be seen in this joke. Somehow I was able to suck it up, calm down and go to my buddies house as planned.
Jamey and I had been hanging out for a short while when it happened. My moms best friend pulled into the driveway with a blank look on her face. Next to her in the car was my little brother Ross. Ross was crying. As soon as I saw them I felt like my heart exploded. It was true. Jason was dead, and all of those people at school were really being sincere and trying to help me. The tears came like waterfalls in an instant. At that moment there was no doubt in my mind that I had lost my big brother.
Crying I walked up to the car and looked at Kay (my moms friend and a surrogate aunt to my brothers and I) and said why did nobody call the school? She explained that my mom didn’t want me to worry and that they had planned for Kay to pick me up. Jason was not dead, but he had been in a bad car accident and was at the hospital in Salem.
I walked over and told Jamey, who has always been like a brother and also had tears in his eyes, gave him a hug and got in the car. I was so angry about not being told, and so worried because we did not yet know the extent of his injuries.
When we arrived at the hospital, everyone was full of tears. Everyone except Jason. He sat in his bed telling us to stop with the sissy emotions, and that he was OK. Seeing him beat up, and broken but with a smile on his face trying to comfort everyone in the room thrust me into an emotional outbreak the likes of which have never been equalled. Tears, snot, stuttered and muffled words. I was a mess. Jason had returned. I lost him, and here he was. Too bad ass to die is something so minor as a car wreck. Never mind the fact that his car had flipped twice, and rolled multiple times, ejecting him through the sun roof in the middle of it. A concussion, a broken collar bone and a badly broken leg being the worst of his injuries.
I was told that he refused to let the paramedics cut off his Letterman jacket, and he would fight through the pain of them taking it off. That jacket is still hanging at his house today.
He told me to chill out, and then started to spout off instructions. “Find where they took my car Eric. My Oakleys are still in it and I don’t want some moron to steal them.”
The next day I did as he instructed.
That was the first time I lost my brother, and perhaps that is one of the reasons I still can not accept that he is gone. I am waiting for someone to pull into the driveway and take me to the hospital to see him. I am waiting for him to tell me to call the cruise line because when he went overboard he lost his hat. I am waiting for his wife to tell him that she has it, and to watch her place it on his head. I am waiting. I will wait for the rest of my life if I have to, but I refuse to think I won’t see him again.
While I wait I will take the anger, the same kind of anger I felt that day at school, and I will use it to fight the bullies telling me this awful joke. I will use it to make sure that other little brothers don’t have to feel what I am feeling. I will use that anger to help get laws passed that require these ships to take responsibility for their passengers. I will use it to get by until the day I see my brother, and he tells me to stop crying like a sissy.
I hope that some of you will go to the web site for ICV. This is the organization of which I am now a board member. A group that helps victims of cruise ship crimes of all kinds, and who fights for the same laws that I intend to help them pass. Please go to http://www.internationalcruisevictims.org and read about what they are doing, and maybe even give them a donation of some sort. They are a not for profit, and this fight can get expensive at times. Every little bit helps! Please support them in this fight. Please help me continue to share Jason’s voice!