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The Current

The Current

Editorial: Tragedy can bring us together

Zachary Swenson, a senior, speaks at Joe Rantz’s memorial. Photo by Jared Pittsley

Throughout life there are many hardships we have to face. From the mundane worries about grades, to the extreme devastation of losing a dear friend, we all have to accept, cope and heal.

Bear River High School lost two amazing students prior to the holidays, Joe Rantz and Jude (Alex) Douden. We as a community have coped with the loss by turning to family, friends and loved ones for help and guidance through this healing process that we all are sharing together.  

“Joe’s accident happened only 10 days before Christmas,” said his mother Annie Rantz. “It made the holiday season feel terribly inappropriate. It was hard to feel joy. It was hard to want to do anything but talk about Joe and process our loss.”

Mrs. Rantz said it was hard for the family to celebrate during the holidays in the traditional way that they always used to.

“Because we have small kids, Devon (Joe’s father) and I felt that it was important to get through Christmas with as much tradition in place as possible,” she said. “We made it through the day with many, many tears. Joe’s gifts to us were already purchased and our gifts to him were already wrapped and underneath the tree. We miss him terribly.”

Douden’s girlfriend, senior Hannah Rothenberger, also struggled with the loss of her boyfriend during the holiday season.

“The accident definitely took me by surprise. …” said Rothenberger. “I spent a lot of time with the Doudens and with his little sister. (The week after the accident) we did some stuff. … We got a fish together and I spent the week mainly with his family. It was probably the best way to get through it, just to spend time with his family.”

Close friends and the community have also been coping with the loss. Joe Rantz’s teammate and close friend, senior Trevor Hennig, shared his experience.

“When I found out, I didn’t have any reaction at all; I was just kind of ‘Oh. Okay,'” he described. “And when I came to school the next day, I tried to stay in that ‘oh, okay’ mentality but I honestly just broke because the reality of it actually hit me, you know.”

“I attended both Celebration of Life services for Jude and Joe,” said Principal Amy Besler. “They were so beautiful and it was amazing to hear so many great stories and learn so much more about each of them. It was comforting to be with so many other people who loved them, too. I think it’s important to sit with the grief sometimes and let it wash over you, especially when surrounded by such a loving community.”

Principal Besler reflected on the way Bear River students came together in the face of tragedy.

“I have never felt prouder of the Bruin family,” she said. “That Friday after the accident was the worst school day I have ever experienced and yet it was so beautiful at the same time. I could feel the love and support on our campus. I think there’s no doubt that experiencing a terrible tragedy like this together unites us. We know that, no matter what happens, we’ve got one another’s backs.”

Principal Besler offered advice for grieving students.

“My only advice to our students is to let yourselves feel however you feel — sometimes you’ll be happy and want to laugh and tell stories about your friends, Joe and Jude,” she said. “Sometimes you’ll be sad or angry or confused. There’s nothing wrong with any of it and no rhyme or reason to when those emotions will hit you. When you need it, reach out. Let your friends and teachers and everyone else, including me, be there for you. And think about ways you can channel your grief into something positive. Most importantly, know that we love you and are here for you.”

Mrs. Rantz also encouraged students to express their emotions during difficult times.

“My advice for the students and the community as we all grieve is to talk about Joe and Jude,” she said. “It helps. Find a way to express what you feel. Reach out to each other. Don’t move on from his loss as if you can forget about the boys, but move forward while carrying memories with you. Please don’t let memories of our beloved sons fade away.”

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Editorial: Tragedy can bring us together