Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Jarrett Lane and Narrows - By Beth Macy

Roanoke Times, The (VA)-April 20, 2007

Grandmothers planted pansies.

School and town maintenance crews laid mulch, hung memorial
ribbons and went around Narrows High School putting on coats of touch-up

An old bedsheet flapped from a nearby railroad trestle with the
words "We'll Miss U Jarrett" painted in blue.

It seemed that Jarrett Lee Lane, the 22-year-old Virginia Tech
senior killed in Monday's massacre, didn't just belong to the mother
and grandmother who raised him. He belonged to the entire
3,000-population town.

And for two solid days, the town has prepared to say goodbye to

"Nobody had to ask anybody to do any of this," said athletic
director Don Lowe, as the last of the weeds were being pulled.

"People have just been showing up to help."

So many people are expected to attend Saturday's funeral,
scheduled for 2 p.m. in the school auditorium, that chairs will be set up in
the gymnasium with closed-circuit television to serve the overflow

Gathering at the high school felt right, said school employees
and volunteers, because Narrows High was definitely Jarrett's home away
from home:

The place where he caught the 6:30 bus to attend the Southwest
Virginia Governor's School in Dublin;

The place where he played four sports -- and where coaches had
to kick him out of the gym long after practice was over.

The place he still visited when he was home from Tech on break.

Thursday afternoon, friends and teachers wandered in and out of
the school entranceway, contributing items to the memorial display or
stopping by to look and pray. Clyde Turner brought a photograph to
add: a copy of the Little League basketball team he had long ago
coached, with fourth-grader Jarrett front and center, his little shoulders
hunched, his freckled face grinning huge.

Between classes, students signed a memorial bulletin board,
writing goodbye notes to Jarrett. National Honor Society members helped
arrange Hokie paraphernalia -- a rug, a table, a hand-made quilt -- and
pinned school-colored yellow and gold ribbons on visiting alumni and

Todd Lusk, one of his basketball coaches, hauled out several of
Jarrett's No. 24 jerseys from storage and arranged them on a table. A
trombone from his band days was laid on top, next to copies of the
2003 Narrows yearbook, in which Jarrett was voted "most likely to have
his head stuck in a book."

A framed picture of Jarrett as the 2003 class valedictorian was
displayed on an easel, behind which his National Honor Society sash
was draped.

When he was finished tying bows on the trees out front, school
maintenance worker Sonny Frazier stepped inside to pay his respects.

He'd been Jarrett's Little League football coach in the seventh
grade and recalled him as the "kind of kid, you could hug him even
when he got older. Do you know what I'm trying to say?" he asked, choking

People talked about his ever-present smile. They speculated
about the number of hours he slept between his rigorous Governor's School
homework, playing all those sports and doing all those activities at
First Baptist Church.

"Every day after practice, he'd say to me, 'What can I do to
get better and to help the team get better?'" coach Bryan Patteson
recalled. "He wasn't the best player on the team, but he was the best team
player you've ever seen."

Jarrett was crazy about this school and this town, Patteson
added, and the whole town took a part in raising him.

Today's visitation at the school will be closed to the media,
at Jarrett's family's request. Earlier in the week, national media
presence had been so intense -- with reporters banging on Jarrett's mom's
door -- that local police stationed themselves in front of Tracey
Lane's home.

"Katie Couric called me on my cellphone," complained Roger
Shepherd, Jarrett's brother-in-law, as he stopped to look at the school
memorial. "How Katie Couric got my cellphone number, I have no idea."

Down the hall, junior Gage Dent showed off a text message he'd
received from Jarrett just hours before a gunman stormed his
engineering class and changed life in this small, close-knit town.

Jarrett had gone home to attend church with his family, as he
did every Sunday, and to share the recent good news: that he'd just been
offered a full ride to the Coastal Engineering Graduate program at
the University of Florida with a graduate assistantship to boot.

After church, he gave Dent a pep talk about following his dream
to play college baseball. Later that night, from his Blacksburg
apartment, he took time to send the young ballplayer this text message:

Gage if I had any advice 4 u itd be to acknowledge ur talent
and run w it. Focus on ur pitchn, if u wanna play n college then go 4 it
all out.

"I'm keeping it forever," Dent said of the message.

Several blocks away, Carleena Blankenship walked door to door
amid the downtown Narrows businesses. She hung up Hokie-colored bows --
the same kind of ribbons the Junior Women's Club posted along the New
River bridge earlier in the week.

The wind picked up and the rain started to drizzle, but
Blankenship stuck to her task. "I didn't have a son, but if I ever did, I'd
want him to be just like Jarrett," she said.

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