Friday, September 9, 2016

As one

A banner hangs on the wall at Angola High School, and around it the place is a sea of blue. There's a red sticker on the red football helmets at Wayne, numbers 34 and 78 bracketing the plumed helmet of an armored knight. Everywhere, at soccer matches and tennis matches and volleyball matches, everyone pauses for moments of silence, and then they get on with it.

Garrett sends its love. East Noble. Eastside. Homestead. Everyone.

And so the truth stands revealed, as it often does in the wake of tragedy: We are all one. We look at small communities like Waterloo, shaken to the core by one moment of terrible geometry on a country road, and we understand that if nothing binds those communities like athletics, nothing tests and ultimately redeems that bond like the death of their young.

 Derek Padilla was 17 years old and Lucas Oberkiser was 16 last Friday afternoon when the terrible geometry happened, a hideous convergence of vector and time and pitiless chance. If their car comes through that country intersection an eyeblink sooner or later, at a slightly different angle, they are just two high school football players getting ready to play archrival East Noble tonight. Instead ...

Instead, they are gone before they ever really had a chance to be. Their numbers, 34 and 78, are painted in red-and-black on the DeKalb football field. The East Noble game has been canceled, as was the New Haven game last week. Their small community is bound together in grief.

Their small community. Which, in times such as these, becomes everyone's small community.

We are all one. We are sentient beings riding a galactic rock around a minor star, and there is more we have in common than not. Rivalries, athletic and otherwise, vanish like old smoke when fate steals our young. DeKalb's loss becomes everyone's loss. Its heartache is everyone's heartache. Derek Padilla and Lucas Oberkiser are your teammates and mine and Wayne's, where their uniform numbers and DeKalb's logo adorn those red helmets.

That banner hanging on the wall at Angola?

It reads "DeKalbStrong", and it is crowded with signatures and expressions of sympathy.

That sea of blue?

It's Angola students wearing blue shirts to honor Derek Padilla and Lucas Oberkiser.

In Decatur, Bellmont's football captains wore blue shirts, too, for the same reason. Garrett started the school day with a moment of silence earlier this week, and tweeted out a photo of its students holding a banner of support. East Noble Middle School donated proceeds from a bake sale to the families of the two young men. Expressions of support came from high schools all over Indiana; outside the state, NBA star Russell Westbrook tweeted his condolences.

We are all one. Truth.

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