It’s been almost two months since four promising young teens here in the Lancaster area died together in a horrific car accident. The four were all students and football players at Manheim Central High School in the community adjacent to ours here in Elizabethtown. They were killed after sharing a Sunday morning breakfast with their teammates at a local restaurant.
The initial reports indicated that they were speeding and trying to catch air on a rural road known for a couple of bumps that can actually launch a car. I know the road and the bump well as it’s part of my regular bike route during my summer rides. Rumors were also circulating that the guys were being followed by a group of friends who were trying to film the stunt so that they could put it up on YouTube.
I’ve held off on mentioning the accident here because of the immense pain and heartache that the families of these boys must be enduring. I can’t even begin to imagine. But this morning our local news outlets are reporting that after examining cell phone records and texts from the boys’ phones, it is clear that they were traveling 80 to 90 miles an hour in an effort to catch air. That got me thinking about what it means to be an adolescent male.
To be honest, most of us grown men who would be tempted to stand in judgment of those boys would have to admit to taking many risks ourselves when we were their age. A look at my own personal history leaves me shaking my head at the stupid things I did, many of which could have done major damage to myself and to others. There were things my dad did that he told me he would never tell me about. I’ve beem mum on some things with my kids as well. You see, teenage boys feel invulnerable, they are incredibly impulsive, they love the feel of the thrill, they take risks, and they are incredibly lacking in wisdom and judgment. That’s a mix that’s extremely dangerous. Add to that the availability of technology that allows them to capture their actions and share them with a world that can feed their desire for attention and celebrity. . . and well. . . it’s even more potent.
All that to say, we need to be talking about these things with our kids. I’m sure the parents of these boys had numerous chats with their sons like we have had with ours. In the end, our kids will make their own decisions. But that’s no reason to not speak truth, warning, and directives into their lives.