NEWPORT NEWS ——Davon Barton turned his frustration into action.
Troubled by the death of his former Christopher Newport basketball teammate, Brian Herrmann, and three other men after an April 16 car accident, Barton took his feelings online, blogging about both his grief and his desire to see young people make better choices. That blog morphed into "Choose Life," a grassroots campaign Barton hopes will help that desire become a reality.
State police said speed was a factor in the crash.
"A lot of us could have been in that car," Barton told a crowd of around 250 people. "A lot of us have the ability to make better decisions, but we don't."
Barton wants to start discussions in area schools and in the community about the issues and choices confronting young people.
"It's important that we realize it's not just us we hurt when we make these wrong decisions," Barton said. "We hurt everybody. … We don't want anybody else to have to go through this pain we've been through this past week."
That pain was evident Wednesday, as assistant coaches in suits and ties and athletes in shorts and T-shirts wiped away tears during a video montage of Herrmann, known as "Swerv" to his friends. Laughter also played a large role, though, as speakers remembered Herrmann's big smile, his determination in the classroom and the sharp elbows he used to secure rebounds on the basketball court.
"We just miss him a lot, but we will go on with him in our lives, for the rest of our lives," said senior Mike Green, Herrmann's teammate for three seasons.
CNU coach John Krikorian said he and his players have tried to concentrate on final exams in the days since Herrmann's death.
"We've all just tried to stay busy and not dwell on it too much," Krikorian said. "It's going to be one of those things that kind of comes and goes. There's ups and downs. It might be weeks, and then something might happen that will make us remember Brian."
Herrmann died at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital on the night of the crash. Hill, the driver of the car and a 2006 Menchville graduate, and Cherry, a 2008 Warwick graduate and a student at Thomas Nelson Community College, died at the scene. Rainey, a 2008 Woodside graduate and a student at Old Dominion, died April 18 at Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.
Krikorian, who urged those in attendance to celebrate the lives of all four men, said he hopes Barton's "Choose Life" campaign generates "positive momentum" from the tragedy. T-shirts with a logo featuring the words "Live Fast Die Young" crossed out were being handed out at the memorial service.
"If we can put time and energy into a cause that saves only one life, it will be worth it," Krikorian said.