Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Stories of Steven Furtado told

Stories of Steven Furtado told
By Sam Bhagwat
of the Valley Mirror

Singing and dancing to the Backstreet Boys.

A “told you so” after friends paintballing a pizza box on a telephone pole led to trouble.

A badly worded comment on a Boy Scout trip: “If you want to lose your innocence, stay with me for a night … that’s not what I meant!”

Stories about Steven Furtado, no longer around to hear friends, family and mentors memorialize him at a Tuesday night candlelight vigil.

From a mother: “As much as I loved (Steven and Jennifer) as kids, I’ll never forget about the adults they never had the chance to be.”

A poem, followed by laughs: “I remember New Years’ Day, when you slept on the couch. We shaved off your eyebrow and still you weren’t a grouch.”

The vigil drew more than 150 people, who gathered in the fenced-in grounds of the Willows High auto shop in the near-twilight. Beforehand, the growing crowd stands in silence punctured mainly by laughs and the sound of cars carrying from the road outside. Gathering in a large circle, friends turn around and give each other handwaves, before turning back inwards. A few pairs stand close and whisper conversation. Tear-covering sunglasses proliferate in the near-twilight.

Mental health counselor Amy Lindsay emceed the event, introducing the Willows High band. They play two somber numbers, including an instrumental version of Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up.”

Flames are passed around the audience, with the first candles lit by Steven’s parents.

Schoolmates come up, speaking without a microphone as they recall memories of hanging out.

“I think they brainwashed me, I always raised my hand and said, I’ll be the pink Power Ranger,” recalls a male friend, sobbing.

Parents and grandparents come in the interlude, reflecting on the promise of a young man.

“He was a guy who was mature beyond his years,” one father says.

Hugs substitute for handshakes as the tears flow. After about an hour, Ms. Lindsay calls the event to a close with a moment of silence. The band then rehearses a song from the Lamb Derby parade – the last song Steven ever played.

Afterwards, students write notes on purple cards in the dim twilight, leaving memories. “We’ve built so much together, you and I.” “I’ll never forget our story at Sani-Food.”

As the crowds drifted off, the mood breaks, or perhaps fades. The setting becomes more casual. Students congregate in groups of five or six. Less solemn laughter returns. Friends slap hands. A group congregates near an old metal car in the auto shop. One boy leans on the car, opening and shutting the passenger door, and playing with the mirror. A nearby teen spits on the ground. Voices grow from the hushed tone of remembrance to more casual, hang-out voices.

“We use our full names for school,” one student asks another. “So, once we’re done with high school, can I call you B-Man?”

“Please leave your candles and the gate,” Ms. Lindsay says, in dismissing the crowd. “The school doesn’t want any explosions in the auto shop.”

Organizer explains vigil

By Sam Bhagwat

of The Valley Mirror

Mental health counselor Amy Lindsay has spent the last two days at the school counseling the kids.

Though she didn’t know Steven Furtado in his life, she’s played a large role in his remembrance, helping to organize the vigil.

“We needed something to do,” she said.

“(The kids) said, let’s do ribbons, so they went to Wal-Mart and got material. They said, let’s do pages. Then, this, so that everyone could hear the funny stories.”

“These kids are amazing,” she said.

“If someone was crying the hallway, they went and hugged them, no matter if they knew them,” she said. “It was not about them.”

“It was very quiet at school.”

She said the high schoolers were mostly handling the situation in peer-to-peer support groups, rather than one-on-one counseling.

The names of Kayla Arnold and Brian Parks were not mentioned at the memorial.

“This wasn’t about them,” Ms. Lindsay said.

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