Saturday, September 29, 2007


TMC NEWS: "In The Community"

When Elyria Native Sergeant Lane Tollett was killed in Iraq this last April, a group of his friends got together to figure out how they could honor their friend. Michael Hartman, a classmate of Sgt. Tollett’s at Elyria Catholic High School, graduating class of 1994, said that when he received the news he was in a state of disbelief. “We were all kind of blown away by it, but there was all this constructive energy through the group. We started to talk about what we could do… Maybe we were in a state of denial; maybe it was just our way of dealing with it. We focused our energy on the best way to remember Lane and how best to honor him.” The group quickly thought of football, a sport Lane played at EC, so they group paid a visit to Elyria Catholic High School President and Principal Andy Krakowiak. Krakowiak took the group on a tour of the school and field house. The group saw the scoreboard inside of the Coliseum that had been dedicated to Dave Cameron; this sparked something inside of Lane’s friends. “When I saw that new scoreboard and saw Davies name on it I remembered that he was a friend of my fathers who fought and was killed in Viet Nam. I remember one time when I was down in DC I watched as my father sketched Davies name off the Wall.”

The group decided that they wanted to do something like that so they set their sights on the scoreboard on the football field. With the support from the Tollett family the group of friends drafted a letter and started contacting friends and alumni for donations. Hartman also contacted a friend of his at the NFL in Manhattan and received a donation from them. Hartman attributes the high energy and the sense of community within the Elyria Catholic family that allowed their dream that began in April to become a success just 5 months later. Hartman also said that the experience also brought him closer to old friends that he had been losing contact with. “This has brought me a lot closer to people that I have lost contact with and I have reinforced bonds with friends. There’s also this sense of energy that has been build around it that is very positive and that has helped me in the way that I don’t have to sink into negative emotions and feel bad, I can feel good about something like this, I can feel good about remembering.”

Sgt. Tollett’s father said that the support that he and his family received was phenomenal and not unexpected. “These are great people who have done this and their plan to do something to honor my son was immediate. They told me right away that they wanted to dedicate a football scoreboard and I thought that was great because Lane was such a football nut.” Trying to hold his emotions in check Mr. Tollett said that he and his family couldn’t have gotten through this without the support of the friends and neighbors and is says the only word he can think of to describe them and what they have done is “Phenomenal”.

Elyria Catholic President and Principal Andy Krakowiak, fondly referred to as “Mr. K” by staff and students, said that he is proud of the EC community for what they have done for the Tollett family and what they continue to do. Mr. K said that this is one of those moments that he calls a “teachable moment”. “We teach kids all the time about commitment, we teach kids all the time about sacrifice and about dedication and about giving back. We teach the kids to give back to the things that are worthwhile to them and things that are important to them and that have shaped their lives. Obviously Lane is a graduate here and a former Panther and as a member of the United States Army he gave back in the deepest way he gave the supreme sacrifice, he gave up his life. So I thought that if there is anyway that we can be a part of that and to allow our kids to see something like this that is solid to them they see and they understand the true sense of sacrifice being that Lane was one of their own.” Mr. K also said that they teach five pillars at EC, "Excellence, Compassion, Faith, Tradition and Community and I believe in an event like this one tonight it embodies all five.”

The dedication ceremony began at halftime. Mr. K received special permission from the OHSAA and support from the Trinity High School Football team to extend the halftime by 7 minutes for the ceremony. Once the first half concluded the EC football players went to the north end of the field and took a knee below the goalpost. The VFW Post 1079 Commander John Victor led the family and friends out onto the grass below the scoreboard. Mr. K read a few words dedicating the scoreboard while Don Tollett thanked those responsible for making it all possible. Mr. K then read an excerpt from the movie “Saving Private Ryan”.

"I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom. Yours very sincerely and respectfully, Abraham Lincoln."

Closing the ceremony Mr. K invited everyone in the stands to rise and join in the singing of “God Bless America”. I spoke with a friend after the game about the ceremony; she lives on Hamilton Street, 6 blocks away. She said she heard the singing loud and clear.
To see more photos: CLICK HERE
To view the Tribute Video from Sgt. Tollett’s funeral: CLICK HERE


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Awesome! The tradition and community at Elyria Catholic is amazing. Great coverage of this positive news event!


6:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For those of us who were not able to make it, thank you for covering this special event so well that we can still feel like we were a part of it. Thank you

6:23 PM  

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