Our View: A family joins together in grief
March 30, 2018
This was supposed to be a good week.
Spring break promised a week off from school for students and days away from work for many parents. The plans were set, hotels booked and cars packed.
Everything was in its place.
Plans shattered this past Sunday for the families of Tyler Nielson, 17, and Justin Gardner, 16, as well as for the larger Nevada Union High School family. A San Jose woman who authorities say will face DUI and vehicular manslaughter charges crossed the Interstate 5 median near Los Banos and collided with Nielson's vehicle, killing him and sending Gardner to the hospital, where he later died. A third Nevada Union student, 16-year-old Dawson Fay, suffered a broken hip, school officials said.
The loss of these two young men has created a wound across families, school bodies and our community. It is a terrible reminder of how easily the people we love can be taken from us without notice. They deserve, and have, our condolences.
All the disagreements and political arguments we have are small in comparison to the deaths of these students. Cannabis, housing, homelessness — they shrink to the background, as they should, when tragedy appears.
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Our careful plans can disappear in a moment, despite all our efforts. Loved ones are gone and the people still here must cope with that for the rest of their lives.
Thankfully we don't have to cope on our own. This community is strong and its members step up when required. Many people gathered Sunday night at Nevada Union's football field. They also came the following day, sitting on the football field and talking.
Assistant Principal Shaun Hurtado was there Monday to offer support to those who needed it. He noted that this year's school theme is "Ohana," the Hawaiian word for family.
The school is a family, Hurtado said.
"Let's support each other," he said. "Tell people you love them and are here for them. That's what family does."
Our community has been forced into an untenable position. We've lost two teens because of the actions of a person who authorities said will face a DUI charge. That person doesn't know the families whose lives she's changed forever. She apparently got behind the wheel in some state of intoxication, collided head-on with Tyler's vehicle and caused the death of two people who did nothing wrong.
The act of driving while intoxicated has life-and-death consequences that can't be undone. All we can do is ask for justice, and keep consoling each other as the days pass by.
Consolation comes from different people in multiple ways. Some of us who know the families can sit, talk and share memories. Others can bring food. Still others bring hope.
Many of us don't know those directly impacted. Those folks can offer their prayers. They can speak to their own families a little bit longer each night, sit around the dinner table for just a few more minutes.
And they can hug their loved ones just a bit longer every time before they say goodbye.
Our View is the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.