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Tragedy on the Hill

CHARLESTON, W.Va. --  On Sept. 16, tragedy struck the George Washington High School community. Freshman Drew Morton was in a car accident that morning and passed away later that day.

The school still mourns his death, using his football number, 73, in a number of ways. No one wants to forget him.

The Friday following the accident, the George Washington football team played Princeton High School, and each teammate touched Drew's jersey before the game. He has also been named an honorary team captain.

A scholarship has been created in his honor, too. Before the Princeton game, students released balloons to raise money for the fund. Notes were written and placed in the balloons, which were then let go on the school's football field.

Morton has been missed by many at the school, especially two of his closest friends, freshmen Matt Schwarz and Alex King. They aren't just missing a football player and classmate; they're missing their best friend.

"It's been tough since he passed away," King said. "I think the community has gotten closer through all this.

"When I found out what happened, I was stunned," he added. "I never thought it would be him. He seemed invincible to everybody, and it's just a shock that he's really gone. It didn't really hit me at first. It seemed like a dream. No one ever thought that something like this would happen to any of us."

Schwarz agreed, saying, "Life has changed a lot since the passing of my best friend. It's hard to explain, but I wake up every morning thinking I'm going to walk into school and see him standing there, smiling.

"The community has changed in a lot of different ways," he continued. "It's a lot quieter than it has ever been before. Everybody knew Drew, so it's been a lot different without him."

When they heard about the accident, some students didn't believe it was true. They thought it was a sick joke because Morton was quite the jokester. This made the tragedy seem even less real.

"When the accident first happened, I was in a lot of shock. I'd never thought just an average Sunday afternoon could turn out so bad," Schwarz said. "The first thing I thought was 'How am I going to be able to get through this?'

"When I first found out, I didn't think it could be true," he continued. "I never thought that my best friend -- who I was planning to be best friends with for the rest of my life -- could die so young. Reality really didn't hit me until about a week or two after his passing."

Even students who didn't always care for Morton, like freshman Blair Hanna, have been feeling depressed.

"We didn't get along during middle school, but by the end of eighth grade, we were cool," Hanna explained. "He had apologized for everything two weeks after school started. I'm glad we forgave each other because I wouldn't be able to live knowing we were enemies when he passed.

"Everything's been pretty bad because I sat beside him in science class," she continued. "Now, there's an empty seat, but I feel like there's something still there.

"In fact, when I found out, I didn't think it was possible. I repeated that in my head over and over. When I realized it was true, I fell to my knees, sobbing uncontrollably. He was sort of an immortal person.

"The George Washington community isn't as happy anymore," she added. "Everyone's saddened by his death."

Freshman Brodie Ehnstrom wasn't a friend of Drew's, but she was a classmate. Shirts were sold at the school in Drew's honor, and Ehnstrom wears hers every Sunday to remember him.

Though it has been almost two months, the pain of Drew's loss is still fresh for many in the GW community. One second, life was normal, and then our community was shattered. The school misses him, and we are doing our best to remember and honor him, but his memory can't replace his presence.


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