For the second time in the span of a year and a half, tragedy struck the Harlem and Harlem High School athletic communities following the deaths of Chance Lonergan and Scotti Gandy in a single-vehicle wreck on Oct. 13.
Lonergan, who graduated in 2013, was a member of the Bulldogs baseball team, and Gandy was a senior on the volleyball squad. In May 2012, Jonathan Hartman, who played on the Bulldogs basketball team, also died in a single-vehicle wreck.
People grieve in different ways and pay homage in different ways. After word spread in the community, there was a turnout at the high school that night to paint the spirit rock with their names and the phrase “Forever Young.”
The Lady Bulldogs’ softball team entered the Georgia High School Association state playoffs Wednesday, and the games took on added significance as they dedicated the rest of their season to the memory of Lonergan and Gandy.
“Two great kids and both of them were athletes, and the girls we’ve got on the team thought a lot of both of them,” said Harlem softball coach Mike Leverett.
Senior third baseman Lindsey Stokes was somber after the game talking about the friends she’s lost.
“I feel like we have something to fight for,” she said. “It’s been a hard week for us with those two looking down and Johnny (Jonathan Hartman). We have three guardian angels.”
On Friday, normal preparations for Harlem’s football game were thrown out the window. The team went to Lonergan’s funeral service at 4 p.m. at the Harlem Baptist Church, headed back to the school and then got on the bus for their 7:30 game against Josey. Head coach Jimmie Lewis, Lonergan’s baseball coach, said they’ll get to Josey when they get there and then worry about playing the game.
In the long run, playing a game pales in comparison to taking time to honor a friend and classmate.