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The sense of dread was palpable to the reader as you (and we) had to wait until the game was completed. This kind of experience really does change your outlook on life. Nice tribute to your friends who never had the chance to become adults.

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Thanks so much, Jim. It really did alter the course of my life and my outlook on a lot of things.

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:-( So sad these things happen and the effect on those who live on. You did a great job of telling the story.

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Thanks so much, James. I really appreciate your kind words. Sadly these tragedies strike many communities at one point or another.

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This piece made me nostalgic, not in the pleasant pop culture sense, but in the sorrow that comes from remembering a similar tragedy that happened at my own upstate NY school when I was in high school. I haven’t thought about it in many years. The old days weren’t always good.

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Ah, I’m sorry to hear that. I completely agree. I knew before graduating that I needed to move away. Though there were plenty of happy memories associated with growing up there, the sad ones held an immense amount of weight.

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It's strange how tiny things can trigger such strong memories almost at the drop of a hat. Nicely done.

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It’s so true. Thank you so much for reading!

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This was exceptional and deeply touching, Justin. Thank you.

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Thank you for reading and saying that, Mark! It means a lot.

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To lose three of your classmates, and especially Ben, was a huge, life-changing event for you, Justin.

So sorry for your loss back then, and grateful you turned to writing. It's been a pleasure over the years to read some of your drafts.

For me, I first started writing consistently when I was a pre-teen and young teen, to take refuge in my room and write about things I loved, to block out the muffled rumble of arguing coming from the living room.

Regarding Substack...

Life's been super busy, in good and in challenging ways, so I missed "Fifties by the Fire" yet again. Thank you for being faithful!

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Thank you so much for the thoughtful words, Jenise. My town was dealt a tough hand for some reason. We had other similar events happen over the course of my time growing up there. This one hit the hardest.

It sounds like writing helped you in more ways than one! I’m happy we have been able to read each other’s work and share stories over the years, too. It’s been a lot of fun! 😊

Oh, don’t ever worry about missing. They’ll be there monthly for when you have the time!

Thanks again for reading, Jenise! 🙏

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Such a strong sense of place and depth of emotion, Justin. The shards of glass embedded in the tree--that was visceral and raw. Thank you for sharing with us.

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Thanks so much for reading, Amie. 🙏 I can still feel the glass in the tree.

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Thanks for sharing this tender memory Justin. Very powerfully written.

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Thanks so much for reading and for the kind words, Jason!

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Apr 17, 2023·edited Apr 17, 2023Liked by Justin Deming

Oh man Justin, I remember that horrible day. Your piece so aptly captures every emotion you and your classmates must have been experiencing. And, the somewhat "closure" at the pond is really incredible writing. Well done and as always, thank you for sharing. Uncle Scott

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Thank you so much for reading, Uncle Scott. It’s one of those days I wish I could somehow forget. I think “writing it out” has helped over the years. In the same vein it feels like it was yesterday. I can’t believe it happened over 15 years ago.

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Oh, Justin. This was just beautiful.

Everything that happens to me finds a way to impact my writing, and my perspective, including stories like this one. Thank you so much for sharing it.

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Thank you so much for reading, Meg! I really appreciate your kind words.

Likewise. My daily experiences impact my writing, as does everything I take in (books, music, etc). Life has a way of sucker punching you at times, and instead of bottling up these difficult memories, I’m learning they are often worth sharing.

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Breathtaking, Justin. And heartbreaking. Such a mature piece of writing. The leaf floating on the pond... wow. Thank you

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Thank you so much for reading, Sharron. 🙏

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Apr 17, 2023Liked by Justin Deming

I am crying too. Glad I stepped away from my grind of a to-do list to read it. So much promise lost. So far all of my close calls have just been close calls. Life is a gift.

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Life truly is a gift! It can be swept away in a heartbeat. I’m glad you stepped away, too. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and share your thoughts. Thanks, Sharon! 🙏

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You got me crying with this one, Justin. The emotions are conveyed so strongly throughout the whole memory. Writing is such a useful form of therapy! Thanks for sharing this with us today.

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Writing really is one of the best forms of therapy. Thank you so much for reading. It’s one of those memories I’ll always remember with clarity.

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Apr 17, 2023Liked by Justin Deming

I remember reading this years ago, Justin, and it had such an impact on me then and now. What a sad memory. When I was about ten years old, one of my friends was building a homemade rocket and it flew into his neck and killed him. As with your memory of your friends, I think that Merrill never got to be a teenager, never got to see a real rocket go into space, never got to complete his childhood. (He was eleven). I hadn't thought of this memory until I read your piece, which is beautifully rendered.

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Oh my gosh, Andrea. I don’t know if you ever shared that with me. Ugh, how awful. It is sad to think about the what ifs, especially in relation to children or teenagers who were taken too soon. Thank you so much for reading then and now. 🙏

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