Ben grew up in a crowded suburb to the East of Seattle where three rival high schools sat within a mile of each other. In a small, conservative, and happy town, even a small high school party would get reported and shut down in a matter of minutes. In the summer of 2015, the three high schools decided to join together to have some of the biggest parties the Eastside had ever heard of. They were thrown at a secluded, rocky beach on the Snoqualmie River. The beach was difficult to navigate, with plenty of steep hills, rocks, and trees to climb through before arriving. The kids organized a DJ, booze, and even a professional photographer on top of that.
The parties happened on the first Saturday of every month and were the most highly anticipated events for most high school kids. Ben and two of his best friends, Joey and Brandon, had never been to any of the parties before, but Ben claimed that “the parties were said to be the best way to meet up with the hottest girls on the Eastside”, so naturally the three boys planned on going. The beach was about thirty minutes from Beaver Lake, the neighborhood where the boys all lived. The trip to the party consisted of windy roads on dark, back road streets. Joey drove them all to the party and Ben said it was the most fun he had all of high school. Ben and Brandon were juniors going into their senior year, while Joey had just graduated high school and was planning on going to the Arizona State University. The night was going well when all of a sudden Joey realized that he was going to miss his curfew, so he found Ben and Brandon and asked if they were going to come home with him. Both of them were talking to a group of girls and decided they would stay at the party and just spend the night in one of their friend’s car parked on the street. Despite having a few drinks, Joey decided that he was going to drive home so he wouldn’t get in trouble with his parents.
That was the last Ben and Brandon would ever see Joey. He died after speeding on a back road, only 10 minutes away from his house, and crashing into the tree. He died on impact and the car was practically wrapped around the trunk of the tree.
The following week, all three high schools joined together for a vigil for Joey. Ben had been racking his brain all week about what he could have done to save his friend. On the day of the vigil, he received a text message from Joey’s phone saying ‘don’t forget to shoot’, a funny saying he and Joey had from their middle school basketball team, and Ben had an eerie but comforting feeling that Joey was standing with him on the football field that day. All of the students released white balloons into the sky for Joey, and that was the last time Ben had ever heard from him.
Ben and I went to middle school and high school together, and although I did not know the victim of the incident personally, it still had a huge impact on my community and many of my friends. Ben sounded still very traumatized by the experience, and as soon as he started speaking about the story, his voice had a hint of guilt in it. When he started talking about the text message itself, he got very restless and seemed very nervous about it. From he body language, it was unclear whether or not he was comforted by the fact that his friend had come back to reassure him, or if it only made Ben more upset. Another thing I found interesting is that Ben had told very few people from our high school about this experience. I remember he had told me this story right after it happened and he was very secretive about the experience, as if expecting that people would think he was crazy if they knew that he was getting texts from dead people.