In the spring of 2007, the graduating class of Mount Saint Joseph Academy in Rutland, VT listened to a riveting speech by their valedictorian. Reilly Hart told the story of his recent car accident. By no means a simple fender bender, in fact, Reilly could have lost his life. He fell asleep at the wheel while driving to Middlebury. When he woke up, a fence post was flying through the windshield. The combination of a seat belt and a barbed wire fence saved his life – literally within inches.
The part of Reilly’s speech that touched the hearts of his audience was when he relayed his thoughts right after the accident. He quickly thought about his family and the thought of never seeing them again. I’m sure his family was thinking the same thing. His words drove home the point about how precious life is and how quickly it can be taken away.
The senior class of MSJ listened to Reilly Hart’s words that day. They were all getting ready to embark on the next phase of their young lives – most heading to college full of dreams about their futures. Each had mapped out a path to follow, including Jason Foster and Alex Spanos.
Foster and Spanos were both standout athletes. Jason’s first love was football, though he excelled at basketball as well. He was headed to Bridgton Academy for a year of prep school, hoping to increase his chances for an athletic scholarship to a four-year university. Nothing was going to stand in his way of a football career. He was determined and was ready to do whatever it took to achieve his goal.
I watched Alex and Jason play basketball and football. Their names and pictures appeared in the newspaper often, stories of high-point achievements, completed passes, outscoring opponents and pride when they helped their team to victory. The world was their oyster and they both had the talent and drive to go far.
Jason Foster went on to the University of Rhode Island on a football scholarship. Last spring, he was signed on as a free-agent by the Indianapolis Colts. He worked hard and saw playing time in the pre-season, but like thousands of other rookies, he was cut before the start of the regular season. Not one to be deterred, Jason is now playing with the Sacramento Mountain Lions in the UFL. He will never give up.
Yesterday I once again saw Alex Spanos’ picture in the paper. He was being led to an arraignment on charges of manslaughter. His car had careened into four others as he sped down a residential street and into a parking lot. There are theories and speculations about huffing, alcohol and blacking out. Several people were injured. They were sitting in their parked cars and were blindsided by the barreling vehicle.
Seventeen-year-old Carly Ferro had just finished her shift in the Rutland Discount Food Store. She was getting ready to hop into the passenger side of her father’s car. She never made it. Spanos’ car slammed into the driver side of Ron Ferro’s car, pinning him inside. The impact pushed Ferro’s car into a brick wall, crushing Carly against it. Though she was still alive as passersby ran to her aid, her injuries were too severe. She was pronounced dead two hours later at the hospital.
Carly Ferro was a high school senior. She also was a standout student and athlete, a golfer. Carly, like Jason and Alex back in 2007, was preparing to embark on her future. She was popular, a hard worker and according to the words of her parents, neighbors and fellow students, a loving, sweet girl who was poised to go places. Carly Ferro will never have that chance. And she won’t be present at her graduation, listening to the words of the valedictorian speech.
Carly Ferro, Jason Foster and Alex Spanos all had dreams and plans. They each had family, teachers and friends rooting them on. They each had their whole lives ahead of them. So how did they end up with such different fates? Jason is determined to realize his dreams. Carly will never have that chance due to a tragedy that has broken the hearts of everyone who knew her. Alex’s future will now be in the hands of a jury.
The MSJ Class of 2007 listened to Reilly Hart’s speech that day and walked out the doors of their high school. Each then made decisions that shaped their future – some good, some bad. The Rutland High School Class of 2013 will graduate next June, and I am sure there will be a tribute to Carly Ferro. And as each of those graduating students walk through the doors of their school for the last time, they also will have decisions to make. Hopefully they will look at the lives of Jason Foster and Alex Spanos and Carly Ferro and it will make that decision-making process crystal clear. Life is precious and we get but one shot at it. Don’t have regrets.