Thursday, June 21, 2007

A Moment for Jason and Melissa

It’s been 10 years since we lost two Friends, Jason Pollack and Melissa Klotz, killed in a tragic train accident on a trestle over the Erie Canal in Pittsford, N.Y. Jason and Melissa are always on our minds, always remembered, but today, the tenth anniversary of their deaths, I wanted to take an extra moment for them.

I wasn’t very close with either Jason or Melissa, but in a tightly knit community like Brighton, we were all friends, and Jason and Melissa brightened our lives with their smiles and laughter. Their closest friends and relatives miss them most, I know, but everyone else felt the loss, still feels the loss, will always feel the loss.

Their deaths were, in the most basic sense of the word, great losses. Losses of life, losses of laughs and smiles. We all have less laughter for having lost them, but the memories I have of them are vivid and bring a smile every time they cross my mind. Here are some of those memories of Jason and Melissa, for Jason and Melissa.

Jason cutting up during our middle school football team photograph — an eighth grader then, me a seventh grader, lined up next to him, trying to hold a straight face as Jason cracked one joke after another. I don’t remember the jokes, or our coaches’ responses, but I distinctly remember how he seemed to put everyone at ease. Coaches loosened up, teammates smiled, and as a seventh grader who’d been mildly intimidated by my older teammates, I relaxed, realizing at least one of them, Jason, was harmless, just a big goofball who loved to laugh and make his teammates laugh.

Melissa returning to school in second grade after a month or so out sick with pneumonia, I think. This memory is fuzzier — longer ago — but I seem to remember her return as triumphant, and everyone — 7-year-olds and teachers included — smiled when she came back. As youngsters, we’d been mystified by her being out of school so long, sick with something none of us could pronounce. While the memory is fuzzy, I know Melissa returned with a huge smile, glad to be back, like she’d been gone only for a few minutes to swing on the playground.

Jason, again hamming it up, a high school sophomore, riding on the back of the school’s Zamboni-like floor-waxing machine on the freshman side of the cafeteria, after having snagged it from behind the backs of the unsuspecting maintenance staff, I’m sure. Like any good Zamboni driver, Jason entertained his crowd with silly antics as he rode the machine, until a stern faced teacher on cafeteria duty spotted him and ended the fun. I remember his closest friends watching the whole episode, doubled over with laughter, and the whole cafeteria brightened up thanks to the rebellious clowning.

Melissa, as a freshman, shivering in her cheerleading uniform on the sidelines of a JV football game, on the road at Bishop Kearney. From the sidelines, in a break from playing, I must have glanced at the bleachers searching for my family, and I noticed all the cheerleaders but Melissa had their warm-up suits on. I never asked her about it, but she must have forgotten hers warm-up suit that game. She cheered on just the same, hands balled tightly in the ends of her sleeves when not clapping, I’m sure. I don’t think we won the game; that season was a rough one, but Melissa and the other cheerleaders never gave up on us.

Ten years has gone fast — in Brighton and the world — considering all that’s happened since June 21, 1997, when that freight train took Jason and Melissa. But we remember them and their smiles, and we will always remember, today, and always.


  1. We all miss Jason and Melissa - Jason was a good friend and he'll always be in our hearts.