Century, Florida. You’re looking at a town of under 2,000 folks. The hinterlands of Escambia County. A rural place where they pronounce “hill” as “heel.”
Northview High School lost one of their own a few weeks ago. Students returned after spring break and their world was decimated. The teenage security bubble had been shattered.
Senior Kara Santorelli was recently killed on Highway 29. Her car was struck by a vehicle traveling the wrong way. Both drivers died at the scene.
It was godawful.
Kara was strikingly beautiful. Brunette. She was talented. Well-loved. Only a few months away from graduation. Her future was so bright you needed a welding mask just to look at her.
She was your quintessential teen. She loved being on TikTok. She adored her friends and family. And now she’s gone.
Last Saturday night was prom. Her fellow classmates honored her memory by pronouncing her prom queen, posthumously. One of the few times such a thing has ever been done in the United States.
A photograph of Kara stood in the entryway of the Sanders Beach Resource Center ballroom in Pensacola. A single candle was lit. A tiara was draped over Kara’s portrait.
Prom goers stopped at the portrait, placed their hands on the glass and cried. Many were unable to pull themselves together.
“If you didn’t know Kara you missed out on knowing a very special person,” Kara’s friends said.
Meantime, 309 miles north, something happened in Huntsville. Today was the funeral for Officer Garrett Crumby.
You’ve never heard of him, but that’s your loss. Garrett was good people. He worked with the Huntsville Police Department. He was an outdoorsman. He loved hiking, kayaking, and chasing storms.
He was known as the “sweet tooth” guy because he loved his sugar. And he was one of those officers who helped folks even when it wasn’t part of his job description.
Last year, for example, Garrett and two officers answered a call involving a man who was attempting to push a wheelchair filled with groceries down a busy highway. At the time, a big storm was on its way. The weather was ugly.
So Garrett pulled over. He loaded the man’s wheelchair and groceries in his patrol car and drove the man home. Then Garrett went a step further and carried the groceries inside. He placed the items into the cupboards. He made sure the man was okay. Because that’s just the kind of officer he was.
He was killed in the line of duty a few days ago.
“My son was born to be in public service,” said his mother. “It was Garrett’s dream as a little boy to give back… He was a gentle soul, the kind of police officer other officers wanted to be.”
And lastly, let’s travel 173 miles south to Deatsville, Alabama. You’re looking at a town so small they have to mail-order sunshine from the Montgomery Ward catalog.
Donald Hayurst, a Deatsville man, recently passed away. He was a member of the great generation of men and women who endured a European War.
In 1943 he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He was 18, his voice hadn’t fully dropped yet.
Donald was one of the men who landed in Normandy. Hell on earth. He led a tank recovery unit in the Battle of the Bulge. This was a real man.
Donald earned five battle service stars. Five. He was also awarded France’s highest award, the French Legion of Honor medal. On top of that, he was an Auburn University fan.
But, hey, nobody’s perfect.
Even so, he loved the Loveliest Village on the Plains. He decided to get involved in local politics in the late ‘70s. It was only a pipe dream, but the dream was actualized.
In ‘76, Don won election as the mayor of Auburn. He served as mayor and led the renovation of Auburn’s downtown. Simply put: if you’ve ever visited “Toomer’s Corner,” you’ve met Don.
Don was 98 when he passed away last Thursday.
If you’ve read this far, you might be wondering what you just read. Well, I’ll tell you. You’ve just read about three angels from a humble region of the world that is oft forgotten. We call this region the Great American South. And these were our angels.
Tonight the world is a little emptier without them.
julieannhall - April 4, 2023 12:34 pm
Great tribute Sean. Thank you for recognizing these amazing people. Your words help heal their families’ mourning hearts.
Richard Owen - April 4, 2023 1:43 pm
And the images keep coming!
Jen - April 4, 2023 3:42 pm
I am spending time in a small town in Alabama, and it seems unusual the number of teenage young folks who have died here in car wrecks the past few years. It’s heartbreaking on so many levels. Even with less than two decades on this earth, their lives make a tremendous impact.
pattymack43 - April 4, 2023 5:34 pm
Thank you for sharing these angels with us!!
Deborah Thompson - April 5, 2023 12:13 pm
Ur way with words…….legendary! I feel as if I actually know these three now. What a beautiful tribute to all of them. God bless u, Sean!
Karen - April 5, 2023 12:35 pm
Thank you for recognizing the real people of Our country. 💖