January, named after the Roman god Janus, the god of new beginnings, is supposed to be the month to recuperate, rejuvenate and re-group for the coming year. After weeks of holiday preparations, tinsel and trees, January is about a fresh start. On a rainy day in January, we might consider what flowers we'll plant in the spring; on a foggy day in January we might plan itineraries for sunny destinations at Spring break or start saving for a summer vacation. January is when we break out a new calendar and mark the milestones with anticipation: weddings, graduations, family reunions, first semesters away at college, birthday parties and anniversaries to celebrate.
January is the time to prepare for the new and exciting year ahead.
But if you're a Del Norter, January 2007 will go down in history as a month of senseless, horrific tragedies that scarred an entire community. It's been a January that did not give us a chance to recuperate, to catch our breath. The year had barely dawned when on the first Friday of the month, local fishing guide Chester Bolen disappeared in the Smith River. It would be two weeks before his body was recovered downstream from where he fell from his drift boat. Bolen was 39, a father of two, a son, a partner, a friend.
And on a particularly cold Friday morning on the 12th of January, a Del Norte High School wrestler and football player, a son, brother, classmate, and friend was struck down by a red or maroon or purple vehicle driven by someone who chose to flee instead of help. Joshua A. Lacy, only 15, died the next day.
In the weeks following both tragedies, a sense of community can be felt in Del Norte County, as we find ourselves bonded by shock and grief. Whether we're a relative, friend, acquaintance or complete stranger, every Del Norters' life was touched by the loss of Chester Bolen and Josh Lacy. Together, as a community, we hung onto hopes that both these men would beat the odds and survive. Together we grieve.
When we pass the Smith River, we are awed by its force and remember it was there where Chester Bolen last fished. When we drive past the intersection where Josh was struck down, we see his number 44 on a blue jersey, balloons, flowers, and stuffed animals - tributes to him - and we feel the loss. We find ourselves looking for cars and trucks and vans that match the colors of the vehicle that struck Josh. We search for front end damage, a broken headlight.
January comes to an end today. It is perhaps too soon for closure, but perhaps it is time to let the healing begin. Like the unusual January chilling cold, the loss and suffering has been greater than our small community should have to bear. We hope that as we turn the page of the calendar, tragedies like those endured this month will not be repeated in other January's or any other months. And we hope that new beginnings are on the horizon.