posted on May 25, 2011 14:37
The bells clanged, the lights flashed. A train whistle blew.
A 10:00am freight train slowly rumbled through the Village of Bergen this morning, it's operator quite possibly unaware of the ominous presence his locomotive served. Just five days ago, 16-year-old Eric Wall was struck and killed at that same crossing when a barreling Amtrak passenger train apparently blindsided him as he was running home from school.
A few feet from the crossing this morning, friends Adam Clark and Dakota Lage fastened a white cross to a telephone pole in honor of Eric.
"We'll just...go day by day," said Adam.
"It shouldn't have happened – should've been me instead of him, you know?" reflected Dakota. "But what can you do?"
Today, the community did the only thing they could do: remember and reflect, as Eric was laid to rest. A memorial service was held at Bergen United Methodist Church; so many attended, both the main room and an overflow room had folks standing along the walls.
"Eric was an unstoppable, unconquerable spirit...he often gave people the gift of laughter," said brother Kevin Wall in a moving eulogy. "We will love him today, and forevermore."
Kevin also read the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley. He said its verses embodied Eric perfectly:
"It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll; I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."
Outside the church, Pastor Matthew Farrell commented on a Byron-Bergen community that's seen tragedies abound over the past five years. In 2008, a deadly fire killed a mother and three students about a mile from Byron-Bergen Schools. Other tragedies have gone unreported in local media.
As a faith leader, Farrell commented that it is God who heals.
"Maybe more and more, when tragedy hits, we tend to turn to things that are ultimate and bigger than ourselves," Farrell said. "I think there is a desire there to reach out for something that holds them steady."
School superintendent Scott Martzloff, who has only been in the district for two years, has seen his share of the heartache as well. He's confident that the tight-knit community will rebound, as it always has. But for now, he said, sadness rules the day.
"Eric was very well-liked by his peers, and the staff, and he'll be sorely missed," said Martzloff. "Unfortunately the community has been through tragedies before.
"We'll continue to come together, and work through this."