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I loved superhero comic books when I was kid. I collected lots of them over about 10 or 15 years and my favorites were the Marvel Comics heroes. Unlike DC comics that had people who were pure, virtuous and perfect, the Marvel heroes were fallible, conflicted and — even the mutants — very human.

This past Friday, we all went through a loss with the death of Vinton-Shellsburg junior Mike Betterton. Mike’s passing was felt throughout the community, but nowhere more so than in the hallways of Vinton-Shellsburg High School. I was honored to have been asked to help out with the grief counselors at the school that day and was able to spend the early-out shortened day in the building. Many kids sought us out to talk, but nowhere as many as I anticipated. For the most part they didn’t need us…they just used their superpowers.

It had started Thursday night at Brooks Erickson’s house and spread back to the school Friday morning. A lot of the kids had little if any sleep yet they were all there. They were at the football meeting, or the wrestling meeting, or in the hallways, or in the classrooms. Many of them spent the day in the library. The counselors were there too but most of them didn’t really need us…they just used their superpowers.

They cried, and they held each other. They ate chips and Pop-Tarts and $1 cookies and drank Mountain Dew, then they cried and they held each other some more. They all signed a huge memorial banner, then they cried and they held each other some more. And it was there that you finally saw their superpower…love.

For four or five hours I watched these kids — many of who I’ve known forever as my son’s classmates — grow-up in front of my eyes. The events of the day changed their lives forever, and they dealt with it together; everyone was included and through the anguish and pain at the end of the day, it was the love that won out. It was a love for Mike but more importantly a love for one another; a love they will carry for the rest of their lives. They fought grief all day, and they fought hard.

In his 2014 acceptance speech for the Jimmy V award at the ESPYs, ESPN commentator, the late Stuart Scott, talked about his battle with cancer and said something that has always stuck with me:

“Fight, fight like hell…and when you get too tired to fight…let someone else fight for you.”

By the time the football game ended Friday night, our superheroes had fought like hell for pretty much 24 straight hours and they were exhausted; they were too tired to fight But it was then that their opponents that night, the West Marshall Trojans, pulled our kids together for a hug, a prayer and another hug, and every person who was there, every soul who saw it or was in it was touched by it. They fought for us; I guess they have superpowers at West Marshall too.

It sucks that this happened, and it sucks that our kids had to go through this. But if they didn’t realize it before, they are ALL superheroes and their power is the greatest one of them all.

#MB11 #VSStrong #Love

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Comments (3)

Well said Jeff. They all are Superheros.
By: Barbara Rego on October 8th 1:45pm
What a great story. But even superheros need to talk, to hug, to cry. I hope and pray that our kids can do that. Kids... don't keep it bottled up. Don't let the darkness rule. Talk, cry and laugh.
By: Jennie Anderson on October 8th 10:24pm
Nicely written, Jeff. Our hearts go out to the family and loved ones.
The hugs and prayer time offered up by the West Marshall team was incredibly moving. You can watch my husband's video of that moment here.
By: Bonnie Beyer on October 9th 12:46am

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