When one of the innocents is taken from our midst, it’s like an icy slap in the face. A cold-hearted kick in the gut. It brings all of the problems we think we have into perspective.
Sadly, it has happened again.
News of Brooklyn Armstrong’s death Sunday spread through Carlinville like wildfire. With Facebook, it doesn’t take long. But in a close-knit community such as Carlinville, news like this has always made it through town quickly. That’s how it is in small towns, where people take pride in their young people.
Brooklyn was a 16-year-old sophomore at Carlinville High School. She was bubbly and happy and loved being in the middle of her high school years. She was a cheerleader, a soccer and volleyball player and played in the band. She was on the student council.
But her promising young life was cut short about 10 o’clock Sunday morning near Peoria. She and four others were riding in a pickup truck when it went out of control on icy Interstate 74 and collided with another vehicle. Brooklyn was thrown from the pickup and was pronounced dead at the scene.
According to reports, the driver of the pickup lost control on the slippery road and hit another car. The other four people in the pickup were injured, but are expected to survive. They are Kevin R. Kiehna, Tiffany B. Kiehna, Dylan Kiehna and a 15-year-old boy who has not been identified. The people in the other vehicle suffered minor injuries.
When fans gathered Monday at Carlinville High for the final day of action of the Carlinville tournament, the mood was somber. The Carlinville fans — as well as those from other towns — are there for each other. The kids, their parents and the teachers will help each other make it through the tough times. Slowly, they will cope.
It will be different for those family members and friends closest to Brooklyn. Their pain will not go away even as readily as that of others. There isn’t much we can say to them. But sometimes, words aren’t necessary. Just a hug and a smile.
A similar incident took the life of an East Alton teen, Samantha Owsley, just a last month. The Roxana High student was killed in a crash near Bethalto just a few days shy of her 17th birthday.
In that case as well, friends and neighbors from area towns rallied to help each other cope. On-field rivalries were quickly set aside. It was a matter of putting things in proper perspective.
Christmas basketball tournaments are a mainstay across Illinois. From Carbondale to Pontiac and points between, basketball fans cram into gymnasiums for a few days and nights of non-stop basketball action. It’s a tradition.
But Monday at the Carlinville gym known as the “Big House on Main Street,” there was more than just hard-fought prep basketball. There were the good people of Carlinville and Gillespie. Their schools’ girls basketball teams battled for third place in the tournament. They were there for the game, of course — to cheer on their favorites.
But they were also there for each other.
And they were there for Brooklyn.