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Sometimes writers report the news; sometimes they are asked to interpret it.

George and I tasked our MSS writers with the most difficult assignment yet: to write words to express how they feel about the death of Evan Murray, the Warren Hills quarterback who died after sustaining a hit in a game.

Our gifted writers hope that their words and interpretations will help to bring us together during a time when we are feeling torn apart.

These writers invite you to participate, to put your feelings into words—to make comments on their entries, however long or short—in hopes that doing so will help us to make sense of our world..or at least to not feel so alone when it remains senseless.

– Laura Byrne, Morris Sussex Sports 

Why?

by Nick Agoglia, Mendham HS

Any senior going through the college admissions process knows well enough how the essay questions can get repetitive: Why [insert school here]? What else should we know about you?

This past weekend, however, I came across a unique one: What question would you most like answered? A few came to mind quickly, like What does the future hold? or Which college will I get into?.

When the death of Evan Murray made the news, shock and sadness struck many. My family and I sat down to watch the news at night, and a picture of Evan came onto the news with the headline of his death. At that point my mom shook her head and started to tear up, asking us, “Why do people like him have to die?”

And that’s when I knew what question I’d like answered most: why do people have to die?

From what I’ve read, Evan was an incredible human being: an honors student, a three-sport athlete, and loved amongst his community. I did not know him, but his death strikes a chord with me and many others. No one that young and that gifted on and off the field should have to die so soon.

What makes this story even sadder is how football is such a unique sport insofar as that it unites a town or school like few other sports. It is unsettling that something as tragic as death could happen in such a positive, energetic sport. In the same light, though, the town of Warren Hills will certainly unite behind this tragic event and remember Evan honorably. The question of why, though, will still linger on.

From the Cheerleader

by Christie Renschler, Mendham HS

When people first find out I want to be in sports journalism when I graduate from college, they usually laugh because I am probably the least athletic person I know. Growing up, my father encouraged me to try a wide variety of sports, with both of us desperately that one would stick. I did have flashes of mediocrity throughout my tragically long athletic career, and I certainly managed to break plenty of local records. I was the first girl to break her nose during warmups on my softball team. As a goalie in soccer, I was commonly the top scorer for the opposing team, and in basketball, I was given the honorary title of “most consistent shooter” because my shots consistently almost went in. Recently, I broke the record for most tennis balls lost flying into the woods in a single gym period. Needless to say, my athletic career at this point is only cheerleading and dancing, and with two bad knees even that can can be a challenge.

Of course I would have loved to be the star player growing up or make that winning buzzer shot just once in my life, but I also loved the smaller moments of riding the pine, like watching my friends exuberance after they had their big score or sharing a pizza with my teammates after a tough loss. If anything, I began to love sports even more – in spite of my very obvious inabilities. While I learned to love sports through the exhilarating roar of the crowds at live events and the simple camaraderie of watching a game with good friends on a jumbo flat screen in someone’s basement, my best teachers will always be the boys I still cheer for today, my Mendham Minutemen.

Growing up, a lot of my friends were football players and cheerleaders for the Twin Boro Bears, the local program for kids from Mendham and Chester. Even though I did not start cheering until high school, those underdog boys have always had a special place in my heart and when I came to the program my freshman year, the cheerleaders accepted me into their family with open arms and, of course, lots of spirit. I have never known a group of students so proud to be where they are from, and every time I step out under those Friday night lights, I feel so privileged to count myself as a Minuteman alongside them, win or lose. The Minutemen taught me to stand back up after a hard hit and to find a way around my problem, even when I was at a disadvantage.

I did not know Evan Murray, but I know my boys. I know that they act tough in the hallways whenever they wear their uniforms, but in reality they are all giant sweethearts. I know that they act like they do not care when the cheerleaders decorate their lockers and bake cookies before all the home games, but really they get excited that somebody cares about the team and competitive about who got the best food. Whenever my boys walk off the field after a tough loss and attempt to act cool even though they are boiling over on the inside, they do not realize that the cheerleaders are close enough to see their faces under their helmets, but we do and I promise we are hurting just as badly. It is our job to smile through the pain and support our team, but that is not always as easy as it should be. They are simply my boys, just like Evan Murray was one of Warren Hill’s boys.

I cannot tell you how devastated I would be if any one of my boys were taken from me. It might seem ridiculous to some people, but those big lugs are an incredibly important part of my life, so I am so sorry for the student at Warren Hills who lost a part of their world with Evan. Like always, the cheerleaders will stand with their boys at the next game, smiling, pretending it does not hurt because it is their job to be supportive and it is their job to hold it together for the sake of the team. One of those girls is not going to have a locker to decorate this week, and someone will not see their tough guy getting pumped in the hallway with his friends on game day. I cannot speak to Evan’s character because I never met him and his statistics speak for his amazing athleticism, but I do understand pouring your heart into your boys in the hopes of watching them succeed and then having that snatched away from you. It is an indescribable phenomenon for some, but your boys are your boys, and I am so sorry you lost one.

From a Fellow Basketball Player

by Jamie Conklin, Mendham HS

I never heard of Evan Murray before Friday’s tragic news, and I find it hard to relate to the sad event in Warren Hills. As an athlete who has competed in multiple sports for years, I cannot fathom how difficult of a situation it must be for Murray’s family and friends. I have lost loved ones, and I have seen horrible injuries on the court and field, but I cannot imagine what it must be like to lose a teammate or opponent while playing a sport you are so passionate about. I cannot speak as a friend, or even as an opponent of Evan Murray, but as an athlete I can say that a tragedy like this should never happen. It is clear that Murray had a great impact on everyone who knew him, and there was no better for him to inspire others through the game he loved so dearly.

Hit Hard by the News

by Ryan Sudol, Morris Hills HS

When I first heard about the untimely death of Evan Murray, many emotions encapsulated my mind. They can be best described as a mixture of fear and sympathy.

To begin…fear. When I heard that Evan had passed away, I immediately became frightened due to the shock of reality that this could literally happen to anyone. Not just a football player, but any young athlete playing a contact sport. I feared for all of my friends at Morris Hills and Morris Knolls that play these sports and their respective well-beings. Furthermore, I became fearful of what could’ve happened to me if I hadn’t quit the sport myself. Yes, I did play Pee Wee football when I was seven, but I quit after about 2 months. I thought about what would’ve happened to me if I didn’t make that decision. God forbid, I might have been in the same shoes as an Eric LeGrand or even an Evan Murray.

Secondly…sympathy. This was the one emotion that I felt the most. Every single high school athlete, not just Evan, are participating in their respective sports because they love them. Not for money, fortune, or fame, but for the love of the game. To see someone suddenly pass away like this simply out of the love of the game just breaks my heart. No one deserves anything like this to happen to them, and not just on the athletic field. Evan had his whole life ahead of him. He had hopes and dreams just like all of us adolescents and we all hurt when we see one of us not reach them.

In all of the tragic events of the past 72 hours, there can be something positive to come out of this. I hope that every high school student, teacher, and faculty member now have more of a respect for every player that steps out onto that field. They are truly risking everything for the game that we all love and play every game like it is their last. That folks, is all I have to say.

Respect From a Fellow Athlete

by Lizzee Harrison, Chatham HS

In this wake of this tragedy, some of us may find ourselves hating the game that we have always loved. It caused the death of a fine young athlete with a bright future and so much life ahead of him. But what we must remember is that Evan Murray loved football. He looked forward to leading his teammates under the bright lights and sending that ball straight into the end zone. Like many of us athletes, sports are escape from the stress of the outside world. It is a place where we can be ourselves, and work with the teammates we love to fulfill our passion. This was exactly how Evan felt about football. And now, Evan leads his team from above, smiling down on them as their biggest fan in heaven. So instead of feeling a deep sadness for the way that Evan left us we must be grateful that he passed doing what he loved-playing football.

Thank You Evan

By Marcella Parisi, Mendham HS

I don’t know what it’s like to play football. I don’t know what it feels like in the trenches or how it feels to throw a perfect spiral. I don’t even know what it’s like to be athlete. But I do know loss feels like. It permeates every single facet of the your being. Loss generates more questions than answers, whipping your mind in different directions.
The Morris-Sussex community was blindsided by loss when Warren Hills Regional High School quarterback Evan Murray died on field due to hard hits giving him a lacerate that then led to internal bleeding. Yet, the medical facts aren’t a matter of grave importance here. The focal point of Evan Murray’s story is the imprint he left on the community.

Evan Murray wasn’t just the high school starting quarterback, or baseball or basketball player. He was the figure that helped to bridge parts of the community together; someone who was not afraid to work for what he wanted. He was driven to show the community what he had to offer and to make sure that he perfected his talents in every way possible. Evan Murray was had this natural ability to touch people’s lives in new ways. He constantly was there to solve problems on and off the field, he was always willing to help, and not only was he willing; he craved to help people.

I never met Evan Murray, I had never seen his picture or heard of him up until it was scattered across news sites. But, in a sense through all interviews and comments from Evan’s coaches, friends, and family, I feel like I got an amazing idea of who he was. He touched the lives of so many people.

So in the end I would just like to say this: Thank you Evan Murray for just being who you were, you have inspired me in limitless ways, my life will be forever different knowing your story.

Evan in Art & Poetry

by Emily Cody, Chatham HS

Emily 1-page-001

I Remember You

By Andrew Nee, Hopatcong HS

On a cold December afternoon, I was given a special privilege. One that I realize is much greater at this moment. My basketball team went to Warren Hills one day to play against the Streaks. As I watched the scrimmage, I took notice in one particular player. He was a tall and athletic guard that was seemingly the best player on the court. Only a few days ago did I learn what his name was, and I wish I never had to find out.

I can only imagine how his friends, his family, and his teammates feel. I send my deepest sorrows to all of them. Life is precious, and Evan clearly made the most out of what he had. All those around him talk about how great of an athlete he was, but an even better person. Warren Hills was heartbroken by the loss of a great leader.

It is awful for a person like this to have passed while doing what they love the most. Things like this really put some things into perspective. Maybe that broken bone from last week’s game isn’t the end of the world? Or maybe the bumps and bruises you are dealing with aren’t as bad as you’re making them seem? People should realize how things may not always go their way, but they are still fortunate for what happened. Just like I told a team mate of mine after their most recent game, “The best gift you could be given is next week.”

I am very sorry for all those in Warren Hills and all others impacted by the tragic passing of a person like Evan Murray. I wish those same people nothing but the best in how they get over an event like this.

Tomorrow is a Mystery

by Andrew Papantonis, Delbarton HS

The uncertainty of what tomorrow brings is the mystery that we as humans could never grasp or even begin to comprehend. There are not many words that one could compile to try to encompass all of the feelings and emotions that are felt when someone so young passes. The family is obviously struck with grief and sorrow, but events like Evan Murray’s passing shake whole communities. You never know what life has in store for you next. As tragic as this is, this can be a teaching moment for many. It can show that you can never take anything for granted because it can all end one day, when you least expect it. Personally, Evan’s horrible passing taught me that I cannot dwell on the things I can’t control, such as my own injury. My school’s motto is, succisa virescit (once cut down grows back stronger). I feel like this saying goes hand in hand with the community rallying around the Murray family. My deepest condolences go out to the Murray’s as well as their friends and family as they try and recover from a devastating tragedy.

We Won’t Forget You Evan

By Scott Buchanan, Mendham HS

High school sports matter. The goals, assists, wins and losses will all fade away but the memories of high school sports will last much longer than an athlete’s playing days. The memories of joking around on the bus to rival turf, pre-game rituals in the locker rooms, smelly cleats on morning dew and the perseverance of a team through struggle. The death of Evan Murray is nothing short of tragic and our hearts at Morris-Sussex go out to his family, friends, teammates, coaches and the North Warren community. Evan represented all the characteristics that the ideal student-athlete embodied and he was a role model for his entire team. Sometimes the greater plan is harder to understand, but all of Murray’s teammates and coaches attest to the fact that he was a “ special kid” on and off the field. Evan was a fighter until the end and his toughness to walk off the field for the last time on his own strength says more about Evan than words could describe. One of my favorite quotes is from Banksy and how “they say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.” Evan Murray will live much longer in our thoughts, prayers and stories of his commitment to football, academics and serving others. His passing also is a reminder to treasure every single post game interview, every locker room dance party, every team meal and every single win or loss. High school sports offer so much more than new skills, big games and trophies. They offer a sense of brotherhood and sisterhood that you will be hard pressed to find in other facets of life. On Friday September 25th, the Warren Hills community and football team was robbed of one of their brothers; however, if we keep him in our hearts and prayers his spirit and memories will live as long as we do.

From Our Readers:

You Will Never Be Forgotten, Evan. Fly High!

by Tanvi Chopra, Parsippany Hills HS

After hearing the loss of Evan, I was devastated. As a pointguard, I know exactly how it feels to get hurt during a game, but not wanting to let your team down. Evan did not want to let his team down. He fought as hard as he could to assure them he was okay. The death of Evan has appalled everyone. He had his whole future planned out. He planned on going to college. But then this incident happened. Evan’s passing has affected me so much that I wrote about him in my English paper. I have learned to cherish every moment you have because you never know when everything can be taken away from you. His passing has made me heartbroken. I cried for days.

Although, I did not know Evan personally, I knew he was a bright and fun-loving kid. He was in National Honor Society, participated in 3 sports and was very good in academics. So many people looked up to him, not just as an athlete, but as a person. My deepest condolences are with Evan’s friends and family. I realized all of Evan’s dear ones are suffering from this incident, but then it hit me. What about his girlfriend? I got in touch with Bailey Reyes and I talked to her and tried to assure her that Evan is and will forever be with her. He is watching above her and making sure she still loves him unconditionally. Rest in peace Evan. You were truly a great human being. Throw some touchdowns up there! You will never be forgotten!

You can help Evan Murray’s family with the medical funeral costs through Evan’s GoFundMe page.

*Featured graphic by Domenic Falivene

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