January 3, 2002

Outdoor Corner

by Chris Feeney

It is a sad commentary on rural life when I look back on this small piece of the newspaper and remember that I have had to do this more than once in my brief tenure in this community. Once again tragedy has struck the youth of Scotland County, not once, but twice, in the past few months as we lost teenagers in motor vehicle accidents. We are a mobile society, and while we do not have the traffic levels that we see in urban settings, we still cover more miles, on roads of lesser conditions, so we seem to have more than our fair share of heartbreaks and tears.

I've chosen this medium to offer my eulogy to the two teens taken from us recently. Obviously, I like just about everyone in the community, knew both Heather Fogle and Jason Rockhold. But unlike many, I grew to know them not as a neighbor, or a close family friend or a member of a church or community group. Instead I came to know both these kids through their participation in sports. I'd say I know just about all the kids in our school system, but I have to admit that I get most of my exposure through covering sports and other activities.

That is how I became familiar with both of these teens and that is how I came to appreciate both for the good people that they were. I appreciated the traits of both which I will mention later, but now it is these memories that I have and will help me make it through the difficult task of moving on. In no way is this meant to cause additional pain for these two families, in contrast I hope it will offer just one more tool to deal with the pain.

Interestingly enough, while both kids played all different sports, it was the basketball court that came to the forefront for each. The name of Jason Rockhold brings one firm image to my mind, that of an enormous smile as he trotted back down the court after having a foul called of him. It was a bad call in the opinion of nearly everyone in the gym, but Jason just grinned and walked away. He did not let the pressure of winning, or the desire to be a star, or any of the 101 other worries of high school sports, force him to lose the enjoyment of the game. I can still see that smile.

It is ironic, but Heather brings a similar picture to my mind. A senior, who has put in her time for four years, but suddenly finds herself in a difficult spot, surrounded by a very talented group of underclassmen that left her precious little playing time. Instead of quitting, pouting or bringing her team down with a bad attitude, this young woman supported those that had taken her spot. Even more impressive was the night that the spotlight shined on Heather Fogle as she was thrust into the lineup because of an injury or foul trouble or some other luck. She stepped up to the challenge, made the plays and led her team to victory. I can still see her getting high-fives from teammates as she walked off the court, with a smile on her face.

Just like all of you I will feel the loss when I think of these two, but I will smile just as they did, because I am a better person because I have these memories.

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