Just like athletes have to throw out the playbook every once in awhile, journalists have to cast aside preconceived notions and expect the unexpected.
This past Monday morning brought something, unfortunately, that I've learned to expect -- another tragic car wreck involving teenagers. This time, two teenagers died in a head-on collision in Johnston County. This comes just one week after a Wake County high school student met the same tragic fate.
At first, I looked at it as just another tragedy, a life cut short by what could be a list of things -- speed, driver inexperience, distraction? The Highway Patrol still doesn't know. But then came the unexpected -- Rickey Richardson, one of the victim's father's. (Watch the full interview.)
When we turned the camera on, Richardson started talking. He, needing no prompting, no questions, was talking about the love of his life -- his son, Reece. There were tears in his eyes, but his words were clear, his heart open, his message direct. He talked about how his son was a great soccer player and would bring the entire team home to watch the movie "Return of the Titans" before a big game. He talked about how Reece was an avid hunter who had recently taken his 14-year-old sister under his wing and shared his hobby with her. He talked about how he had taken his son to buy a nice suit for homecoming at his high school. After the accident, Richardson says he went out and bought the exact same suit to wear to his son's funeral.
Before Sunday night, Rickey Richardson's biggest fear was that his son would go off to college and forget his family. Now, Richardson's biggest fear is getting through the next day, the next hour, and the next minute without his son. But he shared a comforting message today -- one he hopes other parents will hear.
While Reece was alive, he told his son he loved him, that he was proud of him. He spent time with his son, he set rules for him, he tried to be a good role model. In the end, Rickey Richardson has no regrets about his relationship with Reece. He says if God had told him from the beginning he would only have 17 years with this child, he would still have taken it.
Tomorrows are not guaranteed. Richardson knows it. He told me to go home and hug my kids, and he hopes you will too...
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