This week has been crazy for those associated with the marching band. If, somehow, you are out of the loop and don't know what's going on, it all started last Saturday. On the way home from a competition in Pocatello, Idaho, the bus driver of the woodwind bus passed out for some reason, causing the tour bus to veer off the highway out of control. Thinking quickly, Heather Christensen, the woodwind staff, jumped up and took the wheel. They ended up flipping over & Heather died. The kids were pretty beat up, and two had to be life-flighted, but no one else died. It was a crazy night, and the kids were pretty shaken when they found out, as well one might imagine. Throughout this entire ordeal, there have been so many instances of outreach and love, it has been wonderful. The director of the Davis High band got them another bus, which was very nice because otherwise it would have taken a lot longer. They took all the kids to the hospital to make sure they were ok, and they didn't get home till early in the morning. One thing that I think is so great is that the other buses, who saw it happen, stayed with them and waited until the other bus came. I just love how united the band is, and what happens to one, happens to all. The other buses could easily have gone on ahead, but they stuck together.
The band had a meeting on Sunday to see how the kids felt about the competition that was on the following Tuesday, the Rocky Mountain competition at BYU. They could either not go, go just to watch, do their show just as exhibition, or compete. They voted unanimously to compete; they said it was what Heather would have wanted them to do. Those kids are so tough! I cannot even imagine performing a show, so emotional anyway, so soon after such a traumatic experience, full of memories. They did an amazing job, despite the obvious holes from people who couldn't march. As soon as they were lined up in the tunnel ready to come out, everyone started cheering and the entire stadium gave them a standing ovation. Then they remained standing until they were all set up. It was great to see the support and respect. There were four woodwinds who couldn't march that were grouped around the flag in front with Kelsie, just playing. It was touching, almost like the casualties of war to whom the show pays tribute. At the end, they turned around one of the posters and they had Heather's picture with the scripture from John 15:13 - "Greater love hath no man that this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." It was so moving, because that is exactly how the woodwinds felt, that she saved their lives. It really was a miracle that only one person died, as tragic as that was. If the driver had passed out earlier, they would have gone off a cliff, and if Heather hadn't taken the wheel when she did, they would have gone into the lava rocks and it would have been even worse. Standing ovation at the end again until they were all off the field. (Sorry I don't have any pictures, I was dumb and left my camera at home!) After them was the BYU Cougar marching band in exhibition. During their show, we looked up and noticed a flock of white birds a little ways off. I thought they were just geese heading out for the year, and didn't think much of it. But then they came right over the stadium and circled about three times before flying off. We didn't really know what to make of it, but afterwards found out that they were doves. The band felt really strongly that Heather sent them. That was really cool. Afterwards, to show their support and love, the Cougar Band played "Amazing Grace." It was cool to see that support and feel the spirit that was there. It was drizzling, almost like the sky was crying as well. They gave the band a thing of flowers too. As far as awards go, it was another clean sweep. The drum majors from the other bands were such good sports. After every competition, they salute each other and then give each other hugs and congratulations. This time was no different, and I think it's cool that they can still be friends even when they are competing against each other.
On Saturday they had Heather's funeral at the American Fork Tabernacle. That was the coolest experience, at least for me. We went super early and were just sitting and listening. The woodwind section played the prelude, which they prepared in like two days - arranged, practiced, and put together. They did a really good job, even considering the lack of music stands in the stand, since they didn't have time to memorize it. It was really nice - smooth, quiet, soothing. Then for about the last 15 minutes the organ took over the prelude and it was really interesting to see the contrast. After the other, the organ was just grating - loud and dramatic. The tributes and stuff were great, as were the talks. Elder Bruce Hafen of the Seventy was there and gave a marvelously inspiring talk. Apparently, the AF City Council announced Saturday as Heather Christensen Day, and in honor of her, everyone was asked to do an act of service, since that was what her life was all about, from beginning to end. He also talked about "staying on your dot" in the spiritual sense, and keeping our lives in line so that we can meet together in the Celestial kingdom with Heather, who no doubt will save spots. Another image from the other talk that I enjoyed a lot was a story told about a little freight boat. The people on the dock watching her sail away into the mist say, "She's gone!" but the people waiting at the new destination for the goods say, "Here she comes!" I liked that way of putting it, because I'm sure there were lots of people there to greet her, as there will be for everyone. After it was all over, the organ played while the band filed out. Then as they were starting to take the casket out, it stopped. We were all thinking, "Ok, now is not the time to be flipping pages!" But then through the open doors, floating in on the breeze, the band started to play their second movement, the slow one. It was so touching! The Spirit was so strong; it was like taps, or the windows of heaven opening to usher her in. It was also like the band's voices, thanking her one last time and bidding her farewell. I don't think there was a dry eye in the tabernacle, even the men.
It never ceases to amaze me how strong those at AFHS are. Every trial and tragedy that comes their way is faced with courage and unity. They support each other in their hard times, whether they know them personally or not. It never seems to end either. I remember last year, it seemed like every other week, something else had happened and there was a card in the hall in the seminary and people were crowded around it, offering comfort and letting them know that they were being thought of and prayed for, sometimes by complete strangers. They really are of "one heart and one mind" and I'm so grateful for that example.
It was a neat experience for me particularly. I didn't know Heather very well at all, just that she was Samantha's clarinet leader. But I felt so much closer to her after that and so grateful that she did what she did so that my sister could still be here with us. I cannot imagine how horrible that would have been. As much pain and suffering that there was in that building, it could have been thousands of times worse, if all the families of all those kids had to go through the same heartache and grief. It's sad that it takes events like this to make you realize how much you really love your family, but at least there is some good that can come out of it. I'm so grateful for the Atonement and the way that it provides so that we can all be together again, and also for its healing power. I am so grateful for that knowledge in my life. Hopefully we can all resolve to be better people and learn from this incredibly difficult trial.