The Point of Life
On Point with Chris Papst
There is no mistaking, I have an interesting job. As a general assignment reporter, I cover criminals, crimes, charities, finances, fires, national, state and local politics, the odd, the peculiar, the incredible and the miraculous. I report on everything from military funerals to the first birth of the new year to someone winning the lottery. As a result, I see and learn a lot.
In reality, most of what I do comes and goes with the days. But, occasionally I get an assignment that changes my way of thinking- or even my life. And I got one of those last month.
On January 16, four Manheim Central High School football players died when the car they were in collided with another, killing three of them instantly. The fourth died at a local hospital. They were coming home from a Sunday brunch and tried to get some air as they sped over a small hill.
They weren't drinking. There weren't doing drugs. They were just being kids. Yes, there were goofing around. But, I would be a hypocrite to said I had not done the same. Who among us is perfect?
Five days after the crash the families held a joint funeral. In a dimly lit church, 2,500 mourners stood solemnly as tearful loved ones honored the dead. The four young men were all football players; their framed jerseys proudly displayed next to their flower laden caskets.
I can't put into words how hard it was to stand in that church. My heart ached for the families. And as I listened to the service, I attempted to bring reason to the unreasonable.
I thought of my Godfather, Pasquel Carfagno. He past away last summer after 90 incredibly productive and successful years. As a radio man in the Army, he landed on the bloody beaches of Normandy on D-Day. His Higgins Boat carried 36 men – three survived. After Europe was secured, he was shipped to the Pacific to help defeat Japan. After the war, he worked as an electrician. He married my Godmother and raised a child.
Throughout his nine decades he faced thousands of situations that could have ended his life. But, they didn't.
I asked myself: Why did he get to live a full life and these four boys didn't? After all, during the war people were actively trying to kill him. Who knows how many miles he drove. Or, how many circuits he cut as an electrician. Yet, he lived through it all.
Was he just lucky? Can we really ascribe his long life, and assign those four young men's short lives, to luck? The answer cannot be that simple.
If there is one thing this crash taught me it's that one does not truly die in death – we are simply no longer able to make new memories. And those we've already made get stronger as the bonds of life grow more precious.
I believe life is not measured by how much money we make, what kind of jobs we have or many years we live. It is measured by how many lives we positively touch. We are indeed born with everything we need.
As I stood in that church I realized that what follows death is only more life. Each person at that memorial, all 2,500, will remember those boys. They did not die in vain. And their lives served a greater purpose. I am sure everyone in that church hugged their loved ones a little harder that night. I know I did.
We are all here for a reason. I believe those four football players were sent here to show their community that life and love are indeed precious and must be cherished as such – a calling that is indeed enormous. And they lived just long enough to achieve it.
Chris Papst is an two-time Emmy award-winning reporter for CBS-21 News.