Members of the George Washington High School football team and cheerleading squad release balloons Friday to remember Drew Morton before Friday night's game against Princeton. Morton died Sunday in a car wreck.
Drew Morton's sister, Alexa, wearing her brother's jersey, shares a quiet moment with teammates and fellow cheerleaders.
Dustin Crouser (center) and Ryan Switzer (right) comfort Alexa after Friday's ceremony.
Students left white and burgundy carnations around Drew's football helmet before and after the ceremony.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. --
A little after 2:30 p.m. Friday, friends, teammates and classmates of Drew Morton filed onto the George Washington High School football field, formed a big circle and released bags full of balloons into a brilliant blue sky, creating a multicolored sendoff for Morton before the football team's Friday night football game in Princeton. Hundreds of fellow classmates watched from the sidelines.As students clutched burgundy and white carnations with cards carrying the message "May we all celebrate his spirit," GW guidance counselor Billie Walker reminded them of the theme of Drew's Thursday night funeral, a theme of forgiveness, togetherness and family."We are one big family, all of us, and we have suffered a loss," Walker said. "It's time for us to be together as a family."Drew Morton, 14, was riding with his friend Reed Deer, 15, on Sunday when Deer lost control of his parents' 2006 Lexus on Quarry Ridge Road and wrecked. Deer was wearing a seatbelt and survived all but unscathed. Morton was not wearing his seatbelt.Both boys played on GW's football team. Coach Steve Edwards Jr. said the players are dealing with the loss of their teammate."I worry all the time about things affecting the game," Edwards said when asked how Drew's loss might affect play. "Everybody's different. We're just going to go and do the best we can."But, he added, "Kids are resilient. They're strong, and sometimes they're more mature than we give them credit for."Many of the adults at GW have been impressed with the level of maturity, understanding and caring shown by the student body.
Walker said that, the day after the accident, the student who was driving went to Morton's parents to ask their forgiveness. The Morton family is not blaming Deer, and neither are fellow students."The other young man has been fully accepted and embraced," Walker said. "It's been really beautiful, the way we've come together as a family."Drew Morton would have been forgiving, she said. "We as a community need to follow that example," Walker said. "We've done that.""We're totally forgiving to Reed," said Alexa Morton, Drew's 16-year-old sister, who attended Friday's balloon ceremony wearing her brother's football jersey."We want him to know we love him, and nobody blames him. He's going through a lot, too."Walker and others who have watched George Washington's kids this week say the students are supporting each other and helping one another through hard times. "They've handled it so well, it's helped me handle it," Edwards said."That's all you can ask."
Reach Rusty Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1215.