We normally don't publish the names of the deceased before they're released by authorities. It's more important we get it right than get it first, especially when it comes to such a sensitive subject.
Last weekend was the exception to this rule. We published a story on the shocking weekend death of Dawson-Boyd student-athlete Mike Anyasike in Monday's paper after Facebook and Twitter blew up and after we interviewed his football coach.
We hate writing stories like that one, but it's part of the job.
Anyasike, like most teens, has a Facebook page. His grabs your attention at the very top with a huge photo of this year's football team, which lost in the Prep Bowl to Mahnomen. By Monday, his home page also included personal messages from those who knew him - the kinds of messages that you don't want to see but are typically plastered over social media sites when someone is taken from us:
"R.I.P. Mike Anyasike."
"Just think God needed him for some reason he's probably playing football in the heavens with all stars and pro athletes R.I.P Mike best guy in the world"
"R.I.P. Mike Praying for your family and the Dawson community. You will be truly missed"
"He wasnt only a somebody he was my friend and he was the one that cheered me up everyday and now we will all miss u Mike Anyasike and now your gone we will never recover from this tragic loss he was a great man and a great athlete."
"Love you bro"
And finally, simply: "Praying."
Few things are more sad than reading these kinds of messages on the Facebook page of a popular high school student who was months away from graduating and moving on to bigger things after high school - for Anyasike, it was college and likely more football at St. John's University.
Truly, last weekend was a rough one in Minnesota. Last Friday night, a crash near Sleepy Eye killed four people - three of them were Anyasike's age or younger. And while we mourn the loss of anyone we know no matter their age, losing kids - yes, these are still kids - is even more difficult to accept. When kids are taken from us, it never seems fair. And all we can do is ask, "Why?"
You didn't have to know Mike Anyasike to be affected by his death, because chances are you are close to a teenager.
We don't know all the particulars surrounding what happened last weekend, but we do know Anyasike was with his friends at a party. This doesn't make him a bad kid; it's what a lot of teens do. Chances are, your teen, or your niece or nephew, has or will in the future, attend a party or two, but it's the decisions he or she makes at that party that could turn out to be life-changing.
We can all learn something from last weekend's tragedies. And parents, the deaths of these young people should remind us all to stay in our children's lives - without smothering them - and not take our kids for granted.
And tell them you love them every chance you get, and listen to them, all the time, no matter how busy you might be.
For any teen who is reading this, that goes double for you.