Five Years Like Yesterday

How can it be that it was five years ago when I first came across Clay McKemie and Sean Wilkinson’s beautiful and happy school picture faces on CNN? I remember where I was so vividly. I see my office and my desk, I see the headlines, and I see the dozens of online reports in my head. School trip gone horribly wrong. Missing boys. Florida ocean. Coast Guard.

People still ask me why I felt so haunted by their story. I tell them about my connection to Rome, Georgia, having lived there for five years in the mid-nineties, but more than that, I tell them about my son who was also 15 at the time. I saw his face in theirs. Then, of course, there was the unmitigated gall of Steve Hall, the trip leader who was in the local paper two days after the boys were found dead running around the field and telling reporters at a Darlington soccer game how much fun he was having coaching the team. (Of course, by this time, anyone involved had been told to not discuss anything with anyone by Darlington lawyers. And not talk, they did. As a result, Hall went unpunished for what was so blatantly criminal negligence.)

It worried me that no parent could easily get information about Hall before sending their child on a trip he was leading. So, I posted what I knew and how I felt here.

I get traffic hits all the time from people googling Clay and Sean. I am so happy that they are remembered by people all over the country (and world, actually). I also get a slew of hits from searches about Darlington School, Wasatch Academy and Steve Hall, and each time, I hope it’s a mother investigating and changing her mind.

And I admit that I get a little hitch in my giddy-up when Steve or Chris Hall stop by to check on me. It means that they are thinking of that night, that weekend, that week. Not in the way people with consciences would, of course, but it’s something, and I’ll take it.

Every time my son has a typical life milestone, I think of Clay and Sean. And I think about their mothers and sisters and brothers, who are strong and funny and full of life and love and faith. And who will grieve forever. And I thank God for the Internet because, through all of this, I got to know them just a little.