Manhattan Christian dedicates memorial garden to crash victims
More than 100 students, faculty, family and friends gathered at Manhattan Christian School to remember three students and a teacher who died in a crash almost 11 years ago and to dedicate a memorial park in their honor.
The memories of that January day are still vivid in the mind of Manhattan Christian Athletic Director Liz Flikkema.
"Got the call from the principal," recalls Flikkema.
It was exam week and Flikkema was at home preparing to help her sister-in-law move.
"Through choking emotions that's all he could say was there's been a bad accident with the driver's ed care and it's very, very bad," Flikkema explains.
Emotions ran high as students, faculty, family and friends remembered the victims Eric Eekhoff, Matthew Lucht, Alex Van Egmond and driving instructor Robert Selles.
With donations from the community, the family members of the four victims created this memorial garden to remind people of those four lives lost, not just for those who knew them but for current students who didn't.
"Now, they'll all know. All the kids that were here now know what is this thing, what is this memorial garden," says Flikkema.
Family and friends tell us the memorial garden is not just just a reminder.
"Not necessarily are we guaranteed that are lives are going to be forever. My life has been now, 10 years longer than my brother's but, at the same time, I might be gone tomorrow. I might be gone the day after that," says former student Mark Eekhoff.
Eekhoff lost his twin brother in the crash. He says he hopes people who visit the garden will walk away with a greater appreciation for how fleeting life can be.
"That they live a life that is a little bit more invigorated. Something where they see it and they think these guys lived life and they only did it for 14 years," explains Eekhoff.
As raw as emotions may be almost 11 years later, Eekhoff explains it's the community from across the valley that helped keep him and his family going during these difficult times.
"So many people come out and so many people are supportive in this community. This community has rallied around us so many times," says Eekhoff.
The garden dedicated today is not the only tribute to their memories.
There's the Manhattan Christian Memorial Event Center and a terraced area, all meant to make sure the community never forgets.