Thousands pay tribute to Shen students killed in crash

Posted at: 12/04/2012 11:39 PM
Updated at: 12/05/2012 9:41 AM
By: Jessica Layton & Dan Bazile

CLIFTON PARK -- There was not a dry eye in the stands and on the sidelines of the football field at Shenendehowa. Thousands of students from different schools, friends of the victims, and complete strangers from across the Capital Region were brought together by tragedy.

Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers, both outstanding student athletes for Shen, were killed in car accident on the Northway Saturday night. In a sea of green jerseys and sweatshirts, Shen's school color, you can find shimmers of blue, shaker's school color. One of the victims in the crash, Bailey Wind, 17, is a Shaker student. She's is still fighting for her life at the hospital.

Football players from rival schools like Ballston Spa and Guilderland were also among the crowds. They were visibly upset and heartbroken to lose some fierce competitors. They were clinging to each other and knew full well the night was not about sports.

But many of those who came to pay their respects, didn't need a connection to this tragedy. They simply felt compelled to be there and grieve along with the family and the Shen community.

In music and in school spirit, they pay tribute to Stewart and Rivers. They took a moment of silence as thousands of candles speak a thousands words, lighting up the dark night at the stadium. It's a night that many said will leave an indelible mark in their memory.

A moment nobody will soon forget was the surprise visit by Matt Hardy - one of the survivors of the crash. He arrived at the vigil by ambulance, received a standing ovation from the crowd of thousands and was immediately embraced by emotional teammates.

Hardy didn't say much - he didn't have to. The look on his face as friends hugged him and held his hand and welcomed him on the field was worth more than words. As he was loaded back into the ambulance after the ceremony to go back to the hospital, the crowd began cheering the school's "I believe" chant. "This is for you, Matt," one teammate shouted.

Meanwhile, Bailey Wind, the other survivor, remains in critical condition at Albany Medical Center. Many students at the vigil vowing to support Hardy and Wind, while always living life to the fullest, as Chris and Deanna did.