Monday, July 13, 2009
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
The oldest daughter of Ralph and Becky Russell, Jae was adopted at birth into a close-knit family. She was outgoing, curious and was a gifted singer. She had an excellent sense of humor with a special love for the whimsical. Raised on a farm, she enjoyed her family’s animals, and although they never owned any, she was especially fond of pigs. She entered the sport of Cheerleading when she was 13 years old. She had been a student at Bayou Meto Elementary, Northwood Jr High and entered North Pulaski High School in the 9th grade where her father was a teacher.
Taylore’ was the oldest child of Mike and Mallory Kyzer and Preston Hall. An outgoing child who blossomed from a tomboyish child to a tall, self confident beauty. Whether she was racing across a field on a 4-wheeler or dressing up for a formal dance, Taylore' put all people around her at ease with her good nature. She attended Sherwood Elementary, Sylvan Hills Jr High, where she was a Freshman Cheerleader and she was to enter Sylvan Hills High school in the fall of 2004.
Alicia was the oldest daughter of Rick and Nicki Rix of Sherwood Ar. Born in 1987, she captivated her family and friends with a beautiful personality. Her shy personality evolved over the years to a beautiful but highly competitive athlete. Alicia was a regular on the Sylvan Hills Homecoming Court, a Cheerleader and an extremely talented soccer player. She attended Sherwood Elementary, Sylvan Hill Jr High and entered Sylvan Hills Sr High in 2001.
These three girl's paths crossed in early March of 2004 when Sylvan Hills High School was holding the Varsity Cheerleader tryouts for the 2004-2005 school year. Taylore' and Alicia had known each other from attending Sylvan Hills, but Jae was a new transferring student. Sometime during or immediately after the tryouts, the girls planned a fishing trip for their upcoming Spring Break. Alicia had never fished before.
March 18, 2004.
That Thursday afternoon, Jae Lynn’s dad helped her pack poles and tackle into the family’s 2001 silver Saturn. Jae then drove to Sherwood and picked up Alicia at her home. From there they drove to Dr. Ritchie’s office where Taylore’s mother worked and where Taylore’ had a dentist appointment. The three girls then went to WalMart in North Little Rock to buy fishing licenses. Jae’s receipt was timed at 1:34 p.m. Witnesses recalled seeing them giggling and having a great time being together.
Leaving Walmart, they went through the drive-thru for MacDonald's Cokes and cookies and then began their drive down Highway 107 towards Highway 89, and then to Hwy 5.
The intersection of Hwy 89 and Hwy 5 near Cabot had been in the headlines before. It was a notoriously dangerous intersection and had been the scene of several fatalities over the years, with one being only days before March 18, 2004.
When the roads were first developed in that area, no one could have foreseen the population explosion and growth in the surrounding areas. Now, the traffic was fast and heavy at all hours of the day. It was also a trucking route for businesses and the local rock and gravel quarries.
The actual landscape was a huge contributor to the danger of the intersection. Limited sight distance obstructed the view of drivers coming from three out of four directions.
Although different witness accounts vary on details, they all agree that the Saturn pulled out into the path of an 18 wheeler. The accident report lists the time of the accident at 3:52 p.m. Jae Lynn and Alicia were killed on impact. Taylore’ was med-flighted to Baptist Medical Center where she too was pronounced dead.
Spring break ended with the first of three funerals. Alicia’s life was celebrated in a service on Sunday March 21st, Taylore’s on March 22nd, and Jae Lynn’s on March 23rd.
Through a series of telephone calls, the Russell’s were introduced to Mr. Reg Hammon who had experienced success in organizing fund-raising efforts. During the first meeting at the Russell's dinner table, Reg suggested that the other two families be asked to join in this scholarship effort.
The three families had not kept a lot of contact with each other during the immediate aftermath of the accident. Although the girls had known each other, the parents were virtually strangers to one another.
The meetings for the planning of this scholarship began to occur approximatley 6 months or so after the accident. They were held in the families homes several times a month and seemed disorganized at first, as Mr. Hamman began to educate the families to “Think big!” and prepare to begin “a Marathon”.
The entire community seemed to all associate Jae, Taylore' and Alicia as the 3 Cheerleaders who had lost their lives in the accident, so the "3 Cheerleaders" name became permanently attached to the project.
The scholarship was something they all desperately wanted to pursue, however, they were still reeling from the loss of their daughters.
The meetings became a place not only of work for the scholarship project, but also a place of unconditional support, care and mourning in the middle of the work.
Our original web site was born out of a friend’s desire to offer support in the best way he knew how.
Mr. James Perciful, a professional web master, created a memorial web site and added a “guestbook” for any visitor to sign if they wished. No one had any idea how important that guestbook would be to the healing of so many.
The guestbook became the place where guests, especially teenagers, could pour out their emotions.
It became a forum, a connection, a communication tool, and a support system for the entire community who had been so devastated by the accident. Guests could sign in or they could remain anonymous.
Friends and family members would journal their grieving daily and a guestbook entry was almost as good as a face-to-face talk. Each entry comforted each reader and the site became many people’s “therapy” while trying to cope with a loss of this magnitude.
It is interesting how the entries have changed as healing has occurred in the lives of the visitors. At first, the guests would sign in and the entries would be lengthy and often would express disbelief and despair.
It takes a bit of time to get back to the beginning of the guestbook, but the entries found there are very different than they are now.
It remains an active site, but with the passage of time, healing has occurred. The entries have become shorter and their is much more time between the posts.
Now, after time, friends and family still enter often, but many just to read or write a short note of support and remembrances.