Gruesome Death for College Student

bennett vigil

The vigil for Jonathon Bennett (courtesy of WCTI-12)

A tragic tale of death most foul came from one of my alma maters this week—East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina.

Early Wednesday morning, 21-year-old Jonathon Bennett—a Geographic Information Science and Technology major at ECU since 2010—was drinking with some friends and hanging out in the woods behind University Manor Apartments.

They had stumbled across a huge, uprooted tree and spent some time “chilling out” on it until finally deciding to head home. Jonathon found a sturdy branch to walk on and grabbed the branch above him just to be safe.

Sadly, that safety ended when the branch above him snapped.

Jonathon fell over the side of the giant tree, dropped roughly seven feet down and landed on his back. Unfortunately, an old debris fence had been crushed by the tree and Jonathon landed on a metal post.

It impaled him from his lower back up through his upper chest, killing him instantly.

His friends sent for help, performed CPR and screamed so emergency personnel could find them, but there was nothing they could do. Jonathon was already gone.

It’s hard to imagine how Jonathon’s parents must feel right now. They send their son to college, share in his successes, watch him grow and develop, take pride in the young man they raised and suddenly, it’s all gone.

And all because of some freak accident.

No thank you. That is not for me (courtesy of Spy007 au/Wikipedia)

Looking back, I did some things in college that seemed harmless at the time—similar to walking along an overturned tree, which I likely did as well at one time or another—but now seem much more dangerous.

Chalk it up to the invincibility of youth, I guess. Only when people become old farts like me do they realize just how vulnerable they may have been “back in the day.”

The way I figure, I probably put myself into four or five serious situations in my time. None of them were out-of-the-ordinary, though. I never slept in an alleyway, robbed a hooker or went bungee jumping, for goodness sake. But I did once jump off a railroad trestle into the river below—without first checking the depth or possible debris.

I took my buddy’s word for it when he assured me it was safe, but that only gave me a 50-50 chance that he wasn’t completely full of shit. I was also much taller than all my friends—as well as heavier—so I always went deeper. If anyone was going to break his neck or cripple himself in this crazy stunt, it would be me.

But I did it anyway. And it was fun.

If I were to attempt the same stunt today, I can guarantee with absolute certainty that I would perish. No ifs, ands or buts about it. And that’s the thing: I could have died the first time. It just didn’t occur to me while I was “in the moment.”

I’m sure you all know what I mean.

What sucks most about Jonathon’s death—aside from it coming far too soon and in such a gruesome, shocking way—is that he wasn’t even taking a risk, at least not in his mind. Granted, I didn’t know him and shouldn’t assume to know what he was thinking. I just know what I would be thinking.

REO Speedwagon

REO Speedwagon (Photo credit: jcbwalsh)

Walking along a tree is much different from choosing to leap off a perfectly good bridge into a muddy, possibly shallow, creek. And Jonathon took at least one precaution when he grabbed the branch above him. It was dark. He probably couldn’t see how high up he was, much less that there were metal posts sticking out of the ground below.

Then snap… the branch breaks and his young life ends in the blink of an eye. And there’s the rub: you just never know when your number will come up and should therefore approach each day as if it were your last.

I won’t preach carpe diem since this isn’t Dead Poets Society, but I will quote one of the cheesiest 80s bands of all time—REO Speedwagon—and advise you all to “live every moment.” And when death does come knocking, I hope none of us go in the way poor Jonathon did.

But the odds are against us.

Posted on April 26, 2013, in Perspectives and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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