I’ve been feeling a bit melancholic of late. I wasn’t sure why, until my late friend’s sister posted a picture in memory of him. That post reminded me that it’s been 27 years since my friend passed away in a tragic motorcycle accident. My friend Jim, who I had known since 5th grade, (about the time we were in cub scouts) spent almost every day in high school with, and thought of his family as mine, and he the same.
I couldn’t believe it, but there it was in print in the newspaper where I worked. Written by a reporter friend. “Collision, fiery blast kills cyclist” I had heard about the accident the morning before, still didn’t believe it. There it was though, like a smack to the face saying, yeah, it’s true. It happened.
Almost every day of 7th grade, at lunch, Jim and our friend Mike would duke it out at lunch to see who was toughest. It was funny, during the lunch period, it was war. As soon as lunch was over, just like before, they were the best of friends laughing and joking. That was Jim. Fiery spirit, but friend to the end with one heck of a sense of humor. No matter what.
As a motorcyclist myself, we had many conversations over the years about motorbike safety. He loved to race his motorcycle, fast. I wasn’t worried about his driving, but the other cars around him. I had once taken a spill on my bike, and since then was always a defensive rider. Jim was fast, but defensive. The accident that took his life would have been unavoidable for anyone. A car stalls on a highway, before you speed behind it without seeing it is hard to react. I later found out what caused the explosion from some of my police friends, but the end result was still the same.
Once, when my tire literally fell off my car after someone at the shop where he worked supposedly fixed it, he knew I was shaken up, but said, “At least it wasn’t me that tried to kill you.” He later told me that he almost killed the guy that had worked on my car for almost killing his friend.
High school was no different than grade school or cub scouts. In high school we both decided we wanted to go to technical school. Jim to study auto mechanics and me art. Two weeks at home school and two weeks at tech school per month. We loved it. Jim was always into cars. And he was always the go to person if I ever had a question on how to fix something in my car. Could tell you the answer in two seconds. Always. We drove to school many days over those years. Listening to “Chicken Man” or the “DeBella Travesty.” I remember when he met his future wife, who was studying baking. Never saw him with a smile as big as that day. Well, maybe after his daughter’s birth. Another smile the size of Texas.
“Run Jim, Run!!” It’s 11:30 am. We’ve just been let out of classes for the day. Every day, before we got our licenses to drive, Jim and I would run, full speed from Bishop Egan High School to the Levittown train station. 2 miles. We wanted to make the 11:55 am train that stopped in Cornwells Heights, which was maybe a mile from our homes. We did this for almost half a year. Raced each other to the train station. Never missed the train once. We cheered and encouraged each other not to slow down, but go faster. If we missed the train, the schoolbus wasn’t coming until 2:30PM. And we hated staying at school for any reason. So we would run as fast as we could.
On the fateful day, when I heard that my friend, at 27 years old, was gone leaving behind a wife and young 7 year old daughter I was in shock, disbelief and full of sadness. Jim was one of the people on this planet that I could see myself being friends with as long as we both lived. Saw it from 5th grade on. It, sadly wasn’t meant to be.
In my life, I’ve made many friends over the years.
Some friends come, some friends go.
Some stick with you in your heart until the day you die.
To me, that is my friend Jim. He’ll be with me forever in spirit, but God, I wish he was still here.
27 years ago August 23 my friend passed away at 27 years old.
Still feels like yesterday.
Still makes me sad.
Still makes me angry.
27 years after his death at 27 years old…
I still miss my friend.