Our family had a remarkable day of exploration and discovery today. Our travels and conversations certainly provided much food for thought for upcoming blog posts on several topics! For now, in addition to uploading about 150 pictures to Flickr from our day, I’ll tell a sad tale we learned when we were in Kingfisher. Kingfisher, Oklahoma is located about an hour west of where we currently live (in Edmond) at the intersection of Oklahoma highways 81 (which roughly follows the same path as the Chisholm Trail) and highway 33. When visiting the Kingfisher Chisholm Trail Museum, the curator recommend we visit the Kingfisher Park (formerly named “Oklahoma Park”) and the old swinging bridge which goes over the river there. It was built just after the turn of the 20th century.
Upon crossing the bridge (on foot) we immediately noticed photographs and some other items hung on the side of the bridge, apparently as a memorial. There were also photographs of kids, and one boy in particular.
After playing at the park, we were returning to our car when we noticed two young people going out onto the bridge. My older daughter and I went back out, and asked them if they knew the story of the memorial. It turned out that on June 21st, less than two months ago, the cousin of the girl we spoke to had jumped off the bridge and drowned. Apparently another friend had jumped first and was able to swim to the side of the river to safety. The boy who ended up drowning (Jesse Taylor) jumped second and surfaced once, but never again– his body was found four days later over a mile downstream. Heavy rains had drenched Oklahoma in June and the river was running MUCH higher than normal. The sister of the girl we talked to had actually jumped in as well to try and save Jesse, but was barely able to swim out of the river herself. I did a search on the Enid newspaper website this evening and found this article, “Teen’s body found 1.5 miles from bridge on Uncle John Creek,” from June 24th that gives more details about the tragedy.
It was difficult to know what to say in a situation like this. Tragedy is always hard to understand and deal with, particularly when it strikes someone in the flower of youth. In this case, poor decision-making clearly played a role, but that does not make the tragedy itself any easier to bear for those who knew Jesse, I am sure.
This is the second story of an Oklahoma teen I’ve heard about in the past month who has died recently. The other was a boy in Mustang who died in May, reportedly following a pharming party he had attended and in which he participated. Before hearing that story, I didn’t even know what a “pharming party” was. Evidently Time magazine carried a big article about this in 2005, but that had bypassed my radar screen. According to one of the high school teachers in our July Digital Learning Academy workshop, pharming parties are common and popular among many teens in our state.
As we consider issues that matter and are worthy of our passionate advocacy, helping encourage young people to develop sound decision making skills should figure highly on that list. “Traditional schooling” which is focused on content transmission, rather than the cultivation of relationships and the sort of apprentice / mentor learning which had proven highly effective for centuries in imparting wisdom as well as knowledge/skills to the young, typically does a poor job helping young people develop good decision making skills.
Our schools need to change in many ways, and one basic way they need to change is in focusing more on ISSUES THAT MATTER. The lives of these two young men who died in May and June in Oklahoma clearly are topics and issues that matter– and I hope the students in both Kingfisher as well as Mustang will take time this next year to discuss and process the impact of these events on their own lives– not simply after school or in the hallway, but also DURING class in the “boundaries of the bell” time when students are “formally” in school. I think we should encourage a school as well as community culture that encourages reasoned risk taking and helps students learn from their mistakes in life. It is tragic when the mistakes of youth prove fatal, however, as they did in both these cases. By taking time to celebrate the lives of these two young men, as well as reflect on what their lives and deaths can and should mean to those they left behind, perhaps those who ARE left behind can tangibly benefit from that process of reflection, sharing and study.
From the ashes of tragedy can arise a new flower of hope. I pray that is the case for both these Oklahoma boys and the loved ones they left behind.
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On this day..
- TEDx Video Conversation Night - 2015
- Quickstart Guide for iMovie '09 - 2010
- Believe in Me (Inspirational video for the start of school) - 2009
- A Storychasers code of ethics, remembering Lee Baber - 2008
- MTI 2006 presos on Kan-Ed Live! - 2006
- Grocery store advertising goes more multimedia - 2005
- Forgotten 1-year-old found dead in mother's vehicle - 2005