Finding Hope in the Midst of Tragedy

By BJ Rudge, Ph.D.

This has been a very sad and difficult week for the community that I live in. This past Sunday (February 10th), four high school students from our school district were in a severe accident. The accident led to the tragic death of two of the students. As I write this blog, the other two students are in the hospital dealing with a range of injuries. This tragic event has impacted me personally as my family knew these girls and, being the high school girls’ soccer coach, I use to coach one of the girls who died. In simplistic terms, this has been an emotionally difficult situation to deal with as it has brought me face to face with the reality that no one is immune from the tragedies of life. But despite this reality, it is in these moments where we learn the most valuable life lessons. For instance, I was reminded of the importance of community. As I spent time at the school on Monday talking with faculty and students, I was encouraged and comforted to see everyone come together as one. Despite our differences, there was singularity in purpose. A powerful reminder that not only do we need the support and love of others, but we also need to return that same love and support. We need to bear each other’s burdens. I hope and pray that you have others in your life that are helping you bear your burdens, and in return you are coming alongside them to bear theirs.

Along with the idea of community, this situation has reminded me of the importance of being intentional with my loved ones: to never walk away angry, or let the sun go down without letting them know how much I love them. I need to live each moment with appreciation for the time that I have with my family and friends. Life can truly change in a moment, so we all need to let others know, through both our words and actions, how much they mean to us.

A final impression that I have gained from this tragedy is how important it is to live our lives with purpose. As I stood watching the students flow into the room that was set up at the school for them to come and grieve, I was overwhelmed to hear their stories about how their lives were enriched by knowing the girls who had died. One particular staff member told me that when they first moved here, her daughters had a hard time adjusting to their new surroundings, but that the transition was made easier because one of the girls who had died introduced herself to her daughters and made them feel valued and accepted. This is a great reminder how just a simple word and action can make the difference in the lives of others. While our school has lost two remarkable young ladies, their memories will live on through those they impacted. Their lives were taken from us way too early but they leave a legacy that will continue for years to come.

In the uncertainty of this tragedy, I do see God actively involved. From the love and support of surrounding communities to the unity displayed by our faculty and students, I see God working in and through each one of us. As in any tragedy, the WHY will continue to knock us off our feet, but it is the WHO that will enable us to stand back up. Though our faith in Jesus Christ is shaken, it will not be destroyed.  His loving arms are embracing our community and bringing comfort and hope in our time of pain and sorrow.

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

6 thoughts on “Finding Hope in the Midst of Tragedy

  1. How can I get this message to my grandson who is a student at HHS and lost best friends in the accident. He is not on face book

    • Carolyn, if your grandson has a phone you can text or email him the link, or you can screen shot the article and text or email it to him. If he doesn’t have a phone print it out for him. We pray it gets in his hands and touches him

  2. Thank you BJ. This is so true and a beautiful reminder. May The Lord bless you. And may He bless and heal all affected by this. God is with us. We will keep looking up! ❤

  3. Oh my, BJ…thank you. I failed in reading this without tears. Unimaginable pain for so many this past wkend. Events that have also triggered feelings for those who continue to live in the aftermath of their own traumatic losses. Thank you for your words as we struggle with the WHY and try to find strength in the WHO. ❤️

  4. This was a beautiful, touching way to offer comfort to both who knew these girls, live in our community or are simply somewhere, living their lives with unanswered questions. I read it and had to explain, through my tears, why I was crying to the nurse assigned to take care of me during my night at UPMC-Presbyterian. I felt my heat skip a few beats; I hope those skipped beats went as beats of love to someone else dealing with the tragedy that has gripped our community. I am so very grateful that we have a God who can minister to us all…individually and as one…perhaps not erasing the pain, but providing a path to understanding.

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