TEXAS VIEW: Finding thanks during a tragic holiday week

THE POINT: We hope those who are hurting find thankfulness and come together with compassion.

If we look beyond ourselves this Thanksgiving, we quickly see how easy it is not to be grateful.

There is so much sadness and wrong pulling at us.

On a bright Monday afternoon, Nov. 22, football fans gathered at the Mustang Bowl in Sweetwater to cheer their teams.

High school football hardly ever is played Mondays. When it’s not, most often the game has been postponed — usually because of weather.

This was one, too. But for a horrific reason.

Tragedy strikes

Late Friday afternoon, Nov. 19, Andrews High School buses were traveling to Sweetwater for a playoff game against Springtown. It was a 130-mile drive east, through Big Spring, for Andrews fans. It was 180 miles west, through Abilene, for those supporting the Porcupines.

Two Andrews buses were struck by a pickup traveling the wrong way on Interstate 20. Killed were its driver and bus driver Marc Boswell, along with band director Darin Johns. Johns has ties to the Abilene, Ballinger and Jim Ned school districts, and was an Abilene Christian University alum.

Those who knew Johns, 53, spoke highly of him. His reputation transcended being a music teacher.

Others, including Johns’ wife but mostly students, were injured, some seriously.

The crash was followed over the weekend by another wrong-way crash on I-20 that left two more dead in Taylor County.

It’s happened before

The Andrews tragedy brings to mind the December 2016 crash involving an Iraan ISD bus that killed its cheerleader sponsor and injured seven on the cheer team.

In this instance, they were returning home from a playoff game the team had won.

That crash came before Christmas. The Braves played next at Shotwell Stadium, beating Wellington to advance to the state title game.

The latest tragedy struck just days before Thanksgiving.

How can we be thankful?

It’s understandable if those in Andrews have difficulty giving thanks.

But consider the outpouring of support.

The Sweetwater band subbed for Andrews at halftime of the game Monday, Nov. 22, and student musicians from Big Spring, where the crash occurred, joined them in the stands. That was wonderful to see.

On Friday night, Nov. 19, prayers were given at playoff games around the area for those affected by the crash.

A PA announcer’s encouragement to fans to drive safely home really hit home. We sometimes take that for granted in the excitement of traveling to a playoff game.

Nothing against Springtown, but many folks were pulling for Andrews to win. The Mustangs lost, and we wish the best for the Porcupines team that participated in a tough situation.

And not just here

Beyond West Texas, we’ve witnessed chaos, too.

On Sunday, Nov. 21, five were killed and almost 50 injured when an SUV hurtled through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin. The driver — charged with 16 crimes since 1999, the Detroit News reported — apparently was leaving the scene of a domestic disturbance, police reported.

Meanwhile, the acquittal of Kyle Rittenhouse in the fatal shooting of two people and injury to a third in Kenosha, Wisconsin, in 2020 sparked riots and protests in other cities.

As other trials work their way to a verdict we brace for the decision. It seems that one way or another, there will be reaction.

Let’s not forget the 10 deaths at the Astroworld concert in Houston. One was 9-year-old boy. Some may ask, why was he there? That, of course, should be his parents’ decision, not one determined asked because public safety is an issue.

United we prevail

Still dealing with COVID and divided as ever, our nation limped to Thanksgiving this year. We wonder what we can do to get back on our feet again, to stand strong.

The answer, as always, is unity.

We can’t change what happened in Big Spring. But we can react, as we have, with compassion and outreach and community.

This is West Texas and we remind everyone this is America.

We hope those who are hurting this Thanksgiving, wherever that may be, find thankfulness in their lives.

The rest of us should find a way to participate in that effort.

Abilene Reporter News