Two Years Ago
Today, December 22, marks the two-year anniversary of the day that James Lavin and Owen Higgins died in a car accident after leaving hockey practice at the Falmouth Ice Arena. Following the FHS boys' team's game on Wednesday night I snapped this photo of their jerseys, which still hang with honor outside the Clippers' locker room.
Lav and Higgy still have teammates inside that room. Mike Commesso, Jake Rosado, Max Roman, Robbie Curtis, Jake McKenzie, Kyle Gonsalves, Nick Champani and Sam Olson were all on that team. They all still wear tributes to their friends on their helmets. The logo remembering them is still on the ice at the rink.
It's been two years, but to so many it still feels like yesterday. I made the mistake of going down the Google rabbit hole of stories I, and others, wrote in the days that followed the accident. I watched a video of my friend Mike Giardi, who was at NBC Boston but now works for the NFL Network, paying tribute to them on the Patriots pregame show the following weekend. Mike's eyes were welling up as he said some kind words for the people from his hometown. Mine followed along all over again, even though I knew what he was going to say and had seen it before.
The wounds are still there. Sure they've healed some, but not all the way. For their families they probably never will. I don't know if I will see anyone from their families in the next few days, but if you do, give them a hug. Tell them you love them.
Ironically the last conversations I had with both James and Owen were both right under the spot where those jerseys now hang. I remember both in great detail. A few hours before a game I ran into James and two of his teammates tossing a football around outside the locker room. I put up my hands like a receive and James tossed me the ball.
It was an NFL football, with a Patriots logo embossed on it. He told me the story behind how he got it and I laughed. He'd “borrowed” it from the Patriots practice bubble while his football team got ready to play in the Super Bowl a week or two earlier. His devil-may-care attitude about it was hysterical.
A week or so later, the day before the accident, I had to take a picture of Owen for the game program. He'd been away when we did photo day because he was looking at colleges. He'd just been named an assistant captain and had the letter on his jersey.
I inspected the “A” on his sweater. It was attached by stick tape. He'd forgotten to have it sewn on and did the best he could to get through that night's game. He made me promise not to tell his coach. I laughed at him, but promised I'd keep the info to myself. I fist-bumped his hockey glove and wished him well.
The next day the text message hit my phone that there had been an accident. I might have taken the last photograph of Owen that anyone ever took. I know I took the last professional one. I'm pretty proud of that. He's got a big smile on his face. He needed to shave, but that was par for the course.
That was roughly 731 days ago. There's a hockey game today at the Falmouth Ice Arena. The Clippers play the Brockton Boxers at 7 PM. Goals will be scored, saves will be made, and someone will win and someone will lose.
There will be a bunch of their classmates at the rink, I'm sure. They're all coming home from college for the holidays. Christmas has lost a little of its luster since that day, but it's a day that is about family and it is nice to know that some of Owen and James's hockey family will be together that night watching the maroon and white in action. It seems appropriate.