Jason Damron

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“Kiersten’s sophomore year, she came to the Invitational with Gracie. We were all hanging out toward the end of the evening. That’s when I first really talked to Kiersten. The first thing I thought was she was weird and goofy.

I remember Gracie telling me that Kiersten would be coming to Mooresville for the following school year & the next time I remember seeing her was at her audition.

There are a lot of bonding in the advanced choirs, so there’s a chance to get to know each other better. I would stand outside the choir room in the hallway. Most of the students would just say “Hey” & go into the room. Kiersten would stand out in the hall with me & 2-3 other girls, every single day. They would come down the hall, & we’d all join in this conversation. We talked about the most random stuff. This became a part of our daily routine. When she passed away, that was the first thing I thought about. A couple days after she passed, I started my routine of coming out in the hallway again. The other girls came & stood with me. It was very somber. We tried to talk so that it wouldn’t be awkward, but we all knew. We were all thinking about how Kiersten wasn’t there.

Some people are “nice”. Like maybe someone “nice” brings in cookies for her class, but Kiersten was more like a silent kind person to many individuals. The girls from Finesse were sharing these stories about her, that other people didn’t know. One girl said she was in the bathroom crying and Kiersten happened to walk in & ended up sitting in the bathroom with her to talk. She did these kind things to so many people. There were so many stories. Everybody knew that she was a girl who genuinely cared about others. She cared about all these people. Some teenagers just “say” they care about people. But I think she really did care. Which is unique among a high school student. It’s not normal for a teenager to be like that.

She took music very seriously. It was really important to her. She wanted to further her musical experiences. She was interested in the craft of being a good musician, as well as being a singer. I think she loved growing as a singer & as a person.”

“I remember in the Finesse “bonding” circle last Halloween, a lot of girls gave compliments to Kiersten. I try & encourage this by allowing each girl to say two positive things about someone in the circle. I think you just don’t hear or say “thank you” enough. People don’t say how much they appreciate each other enough. I think about, after Kiersten passed, all those stories, Kiersten maybe knew some of that, but she didn’t know all of those stories of how she impacted so many people. It’s sad, but that’s why I give the opportunity for that. Something I always say is “You don’t need the ‘circle’ to say “thank you” or “you brightened my day”. It’s just a jumping off point for them to start doing that. Also – the more you bond, the better you do as a team or performer. Losing Kiersten was so hard because the group just spent all that time bonding together.”

“I remember getting the call from Brian Disney. I could tell something was wrong right away when he started talking. He started crying and I thought “oh this is bad.” He told me Kiersten Woodward passed away. This was the week of the Madrigal dinner. We’d spend so much time building up to this event, but I just couldn’t go back to school and not take some time to deal with this with the kids. Madrigals we took a day off, and Finesse we took two days off. I think they understood that I couldn’t take more time, that we had to continue on with the Madrigal Dinner. I just sat there thinking “oh my gosh.” As a teacher you just ask yourself “What do I do?”. So I just went with my instincts. There’s no training on this. This isn’t something you learn when you’re in college. You never know what to do in this situation. I just went with what was on the top of my mind. With Spads we sit in a circle, and it works really well. I thought I’d just start with some things I remembered about Kiersten, hoping it would open up the floor for everybody else. I just didn’t know what else to do. When everybody walked in, obviously that’s whats on everybody’s minds. It affects so many people. They were very open and shared stories and that’s when I realized that this girl was just unreal.” “It makes you think, how a person can affect so many people. How important everybody is. You just don’t even know. Kiersten probably didn’t even know how a lot of these things, (that she did) really helped these people. She likely never physically got to hear it. That’s why it’s so important to be this kind of person to others and to let someone know how much they’ve helped you out.

Seth made a special ornament for Kiersten for our choir room Christmas tree last year. It was really meaningful. We put it on the tree last year and we’ll put it on the tree this year. We had a candle at the Madrigal dinner last year in honor of Kiersten. We will continue to do that. The students this year will know what it means. On the trip this year we are going to see Dear Evan Hanson. What an awesome thing for all these students. They knew how much it meant to Kiersten. We sang the medley in her memory last year.”

“Kiersten was thoughtful. She got gifts for teachers. I still have the candle she got me just to remember how thoughtful she was.

What I would say to my students is there has to be a part of you that always cares for and remembers Kiersten. The closer you are to her, the more that loss is going to affect you. Maybe you could set aside time every week to think about her, to watch old videos of her or read texts from her. Or maybe you get together with friends to remember her, but you can’t let that permeate everything that you do. You can’t let this tragedy affect your daily life in everything that you’re doing. Kiersten wouldn’t want that anyway. She wouldn’t want someone to constantly be in sorrow or depression or grief. Kiersten wasn’t like that at all. She was a positive person. I think what’s best is moving on to the next step of life, while appreciating who she was. Sometimes people are brought into our lives for certain reasons. Maybe it’s not the reason you expected, but maybe that’s the plan that God had. Kiersten was brought into lives for many different reasons. A great friendship, a positive role model, a caring person. Take that from it, and try not to dwell on the fact that she’s not here anymore. There are so many situations in life where you could say “I wish I would’ve done this” or “I wish it happened this way” but you can’t dwell on those things. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t remember or honor her. It means to move forward with your life in a positive way. I know that’s easier said than done.

She meant so much to so many people. I hope she knows that. We are just so glad that she was able to share these experiences with us. I feel for her really good friends. I can’t imagine losing my best friend. It would be so hard. But I am so happy that she was with us for the time that she was and was able to spread her joy and her kindness to so many people.

On my way to school, I pass that intersection every day. I’m so conscious now when I go down that hill. I slow down and I think about her.

I have hope of seeing her again someday.”  #friendsofkier