Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Being Strong When You Want To Cry

It was one of those roller-coaster weeks. When you have children who need you to be strong for them but emotions ran the gamut and there is nothing you can do but pray for it to end soon.  

Let's go back to last Friday (the week before last).  Jerome had an eye appointment where we knew he would be sized for glasses since his physical a few weeks earlier showed he needed them. We had a great time, just he and I, since I rarely have one-on-one time with my kids.  He was so excited to get glasses! 

We made it back to school in Clymer a few minutes early for the PARP Family Night (Parents As Reading Partners).  He was too old to attend so Jerome was going to help me run the donut swing for PTSO (Parent-Teacher-Student Organization).  There were kids in K-12 participating at the K-4 event but everyone had fun so no one minded.  We finally headed home around 8:30 after helping clean up the hallway and gymatorium (I like that name and want everyone to use it).

Jerome got to participate - several times
(I used to have a hoodie just like that.
I need to get another one from Johannes)

Saturday began with taking Amanda to the Cheerleaders breakfast before running home and transferring the chili to the Crockpot for the game.  Only to return to volunteer at the refreshment stand.  I am so glad I was in there since we had a MAJOR downpour during the football game.  While Jerome hid in the stand from the rain, so his blue hair dye didn't run, the game went on despite how soggy the ground became and how drenched the players and the cheerleaders were.  We won.

It was splash-when-you-walk weather

Monday I woke up stressed out knowing I had to make a dozen phone calls for the child custody trial I would be having on Tuesday (I'll blog about that later).  I was cleaning and mentally writing notes for the phone calls when the school called and our attendance officer told me Andrew was upset and wanted to come home.  I figured it either had to do with the trial or the weekend he had just spent with his father but when I got to school they asked if I would take Rachel home too and she looked like she had been crying. That was when they told me the School Superintendent was dead.  The kids had been told during an assembly but no one knew what had happened.

There will never be another Superintendent like him.

Rachel wanted to come to our house since her mom was working.  They hung out while I went back to cleaning and started making my phone calls.  

Then the others came home.

Amanda got online and, as I walked through the room, she was reading a news article.  

It was murder!  

In our Amish community where we rarely locked our doors?!  More and more reports came out. He was shot several times. But that means someone hated him and NO ONE hated him.  Everyone who met him liked him.  Why would someone kill him?  As we learned more, we learned he was engaged to, or had dated (depending on the source) a woman who had a jealous ex-husband.  He was killed on Friday, about the time Jerome and I left the school just a little way from his home, and laid in his lawn until they found him on Monday.  His daughter had come over for dinner earlier that evening and he was packing for a Superintendents meeting when he was murdered. 

When India headed home after her college classes across the state , Rachel called her to tell her Mr. Reed was dead.  I could hear Rachel pleading with India to stop crying before they hung up.  When I learned he was murdered, I called India but Rachel had already told her that terrible news.  I don't think anything can rip out your heart like hearing the total anguish of your child, knowing you can't touch them.  I wanted to hold her and tell her everything would be alright. All I could do was try to comfort her over the phone.

In the meantime, it was Spirit Week. The class games on Monday were cancelled.  Even if they wanted it to go on, too many students had gone home.  The different activities for the week went on. The Principal felt the kids needed a sense of "normalcy".  Normalcy with the press lurking just outside of school property and standing in front of Mr. Reed's house. Normalcy with police everywhere when we rarely saw police in our edge of the state.  Normalcy when our children didn't know what to do or how to act.   Normalcy while we were all in shock.

Clymer - Sherman volleyball teams remember Mr. Reed

The volleyball game where our arch rivals, Sherman Wildcats, stood with our own to say a prayer for Mr. Reed; Black Tie Day changed to Wear Black for Mr. Reed
 Day; The Halloween Costume Day where the students dressed up in costume, all went on with the rest of the Spirit Week celebrations.  The annual Meet You At The Flagpole was moved indoors, while the flag outside was at half-mast, so the press couldn't take pictures of those in mourning.  

Perfect timing for the Annual
Meet You At The Flagpole

There was a prayer vigil at the local Methodist Church where the media tried to catch folks as they walked out.  "Jack" Mr. Reed's recently adopted shelter dog visited the school while under the care of a teacher before Mr. Reed's nephew came for him.  Our 400 student (give or take) K-12 school was turned completely upside down while we marched on.

Finally, Friday.  The most bi-polar day I have ever gone through.  The day began with the excitement of the pep rally.  Amanda was eager about the new dance the cheerleaders had been practicing.  They did an awesome job from what I saw of the video and the students really got into it.  But that excitement was short-lived when school let out early and many of us made the hour-long trip to the funeral.  It was standing room only and over 300 people attended, so we sat in a side room. 

As they carried Mr. Reed out and his family followed I stood to the side and watched Amanda while she stood in the front of the crowd.  I watched her face go from curious observation to the reality of the situation finally hitting her.  I can't explain what I saw. I just know her state of denial was coming to an end and she was coming down hard but I was too deep in the crowd to get to her.  When we left the church and Amanda said she wanted to go home, not to the cemetery, we headed across the street to the van. Straight at the media onslaught. 

They stopped us and asked us to speak but everyone said no. I spoke on behalf of India off-camera and when they asked me to go on-camera I watched Amanda walking up the hill to the van and politely refused.  I hurried up the hill and heard her before I saw her.  Amanda was in Rachel's arms, just wailing. Andrew got to her before me and held his sister until I got there.  Amanda rarely cries - India and I can't remember the last time she cried - so this was heart-breaking.  It took us a while to get out of the side street and we headed home.

Allegheny State Park, near Salamanca NY

But we were in the Allegheny Mountains and Amanda loves to take pictures as much as I do (plus she took photography class in school) so  despite the drizzle we stopped in the state park for a little while so she could do what she loves to do and photograph nature before heading home and to the Powder Puff game.

Powder Puff Football - Amanda is #14

Back up in spirits. It was the Senior girls against the Junior girls with the football players coaching.  By then we had gotten used to the police presence.  As usual, the Seniors won despite one of last years graduates repeatedly changing the scoreboard to make it look like the Juniors would stand a chance.  The sun came out for the first time in a week  as the girls played.  It was as though Mr. Reed was watching the game. He loved watching the kids having fun.  Afterward I dropped Amanda off at a local church for the cheerleaders' slumber party.  

Looking over our school football field
at the first sunlight in almost a week.

When we got home, we heard the killer had been caught in Virginia.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief. Now Mr. Reed could rest in peace. 

Saturday rolled around and Andrew, Jerome and I headed to the Homecoming Game. I was in the refreshment stand again and the boys helped hawk food in the stands. Mr. Reed's family was there to watch the game before going through the things in Mr. Reed's home.  His daughters stayed for the entire game and posed with the boys after our victory over Panama Panthers.  I truly believe Panama threw the game for us.  They are a good team but lost 55 -6 and only scored that touch-down in the last minutes.  They knew we needed this and I thank them.  

Mr. Reed's daughters posing with our team.

Our rivals, Sherman had gifted our school and community this sign they had made for us.  Small communities always seem to band together when one is in need. 

Thank you.

Back home Amanda had to get ready for the Homecoming Dance.  She and the rest of the cheerleaders were meeting in the football field for pictures before heading over to dinner at The Dutch Village Restaurant.

Some of the cheerleaders before the
Homecoming Dinner and Dance.
(Amanda is second from the right)

Monday came, and we went to Mr. Reed's Memorial service at school. His family came there to show us their support.  Their support, as though we had the harder loss.  There were tears but more often there was laughter as people remembered this man, who touched so many souls.

Today we learned the murderer had been in school that Friday and that he was escorted to Mr. Reed's office - but Mr. Reed wasn't there. He was probably somewhere around the school just being silly with the kids he loved.

Tomorrow is the rescheduled School Open House.  Life goes on...

Let me tell you about Keith Reed.

Mr. Reed had only been with Clymer for 11 months.  He was hired from another school district after his recovery from a motorcycle-tractor trailer accident that nearly took his life.  After 6 weeks in a coma, numerous broken bones and almost two years of re-learning everything that comes naturally to us, he returned to work before  applying at Clymer. Hearing the stories of his first meetings with staff and Board of Education members, it is no wonder he got the job. We were shown candid photos of him breaking rules and pulling students down the hallways on the equipment cart. We saw photos of him in suit and tie on our school's big John Deere tractor, because he wanted to learn to drive it. We've heard stories of his finally getting to drive a school bus, albeit in the bus garage parking lot. We've heard of his love of landscaping despite his inability to do a lot because of his accident. That didn't stop him from having a beautiful lawn (with a lot of help from one of the kindergarten teachers with whom he became good friends). We've heard of his love of golf even though he tended to lose balls - once getting a golf cart stuck while trying to locate them and the band director pushing him out. We were told how you knew if he was in his office from the laughter coming from it.  We were told of his love for Jack, and Jack's love for beer. 

Mr. Reed has left a trail of students who adored him from as far back as the beginning days of his career. The more troubled the teen, the more he embraced them.  Even those who spent time in his office grew to love him.  He was a father-figure to those who's fathers weren't there for them, including India. He was everyone's friend. He handed out candy to the kids. He carried kindergartners to their classes. He always had high-fives and fist bumps for the students.  He loved scaring the kids and I heard that he possibly had frightened every student at some point.  He was always willing to chat with the parents.  He was a genuinely good person.  The 11 months we knew him feels like a lifetime, as though he has always been here. 

Mr. Reed fake-throwing his keys at Amanda

Keith Reed had everything. A job he loved with students he cared deeply for. He bought a beautiful home in a community he called "Heaven".  He had not just survived but recovered from a near-fatal accident.  He found a dog to keep him company.  All he needed was someone to love.  He was divorced many years and at 51 decided he wanted someone in his life, so he went to an online dating site to find the special person. What he found was a possessive ex-husband vowing revenge. A revenge that took away the innocence of hundreds of people (myself included) who had never experienced a murder before, let alone of someone close to them. A revenge that changed thousands of lives forever. 

 So many questions are running through my head right now.   Will we ever really get over this?  Had Mr. Reed been in his office, would he have been killed there?  Would those around also have been harmed?  Would he have been able to be saved if he had been shot while others were nearby? If I had taken the route home past his house, would I have seen him or heard something and been able to get him help. Why did he have to die just because he wanted to be loved?  Why did he have to lay out there in the downpour during the football game?  Was God's heart so broken that his tears poured on us? 

I hope we all learned from Mr. Reed to love unconditionally those children who need us most.  Those who need guidance and compassion, so that they may go on with their lives knowing someone cares.  I hope we can carry on his legacy. 


  1. Very nice ! Well written and nice presentation ... outstanding !!
    Sad about Mr. reed, but Your take on the week presented in your Blog is a winner !

  2. Thank you so much for a touching tribute to not only the town of Clymer but to also Keith Reed, I have known him for 17 years and had the honor of being his secretary while @ Horseheads High School, he was an amazing man who truly loved his work and cared for the kids no matter what. He will be missed tremendously, may his spirit live on those who have had the privilege to know him.

    1. Thank YOU. I wasn't sure if I had made it clear just how special he was to everyone whose life Mr. Reed touched. It means a lot to me to know someone close to him approves. We only were blessed with his presence in our lives for 11 months. You lost so much more and I am so sorry.

  3. Thank you for this. Mr.Reed was a amazing man and you're completely right. When I was going through one of the hardest times of my life as a teen, when I was losing my father after his long struggle with health problems, one man at Sherburne Earlville stood with me regardless of what my decisions were with whether or not to continue my education despite what was happening and that man was Mr.Reed. I honestly feel this man had a heart of gold and meant well with everything he did. While everyone else told me I wouldn't make anything of myself because of my decisions Mr.Reed assured me that things will work out eventually. My father passed, I battled through the hardest time of my life with obstacles I never thought I could get through and I decided it was time to move forward and go to college. I got my Equivalency Diploma and enrolled in college. I went to the graduation ceremony that year with a strange feeling in my gut and when I walked up to Mr.Reed and told him what I had done and what I planned on doing he asked "Why aren't you up there?" as he pointed at the graduates. Before I could speak he explained to me that I deserve to be, how proud he was, and that he knew I can do anything I want to do in life as long as I put my mind to it. He let me know that even though I went through a hard time, didn't do what everyone was telling me to, and took a different route that in the long run it made me a better person and the man I had become. I will never forget that day and because of my friend Mr.Reed I will never look back on my decisions as a high school student with regret.

    1. Jordan. Thank you for telling us your story. It was so touching. I know Mr. Reed is watching over you and is so proud of what you have become.


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