The Chapman quarry was about 20-30 minutes from where I was living. I drove like a bat out of hell. It is a mystery how I got there without getting a ticket or getting into an accident. The whole ride was a blur. My mind kept spinning with thoughts of the past few months: The voicemails. Kevin. A gun. Sleeping pills. I don’t know what to do. Please hurry. The show. Halloween. The phone calls. Kevin. Please Hurry. Sleeping pills. The quarry. Hurry!! My heart was pounding in my ears. My mouth was bone dry. I need to get to him. I need to yell out his name. He needs to know I love him, that everything will be okay. I’m on my way Kevin…I’m coming, please hold on. Please wait for me. I am so sorry I ignored the calls. I am so stupid! I am so selfish!
I was almost there when my parents called. They had gotten there before I did. I answered the phone. “Shina, are you driving?” They asked. “Yes, I am almost there, what is happening? Is someone hiking into the quarry to get him? They just need to yell his name. He needs to know he is loved. He needs his family right now. Is someone going in to get him? He is in Ice man’s cave.” I said in a breathy, anxiety-filled voice. “Tashina, we need you to pull over.” They replied back. “What!? Why!? I am almost there!” I half shouted at them. “Just pull over.” They insisted. I pulled over and parked. I got out of the car and said “What!? I am parked now. Hurry up though; I need to get to him.” I urged them. “Kevin has a gun up there with him.” They informed me. “Yes, yes I know this. We would all go up there to shoot sometimes. It’s not a big deal. I know this. Why did you make me stop to tell me this?” I answered them. “The police were called because he had a gun. They are not letting us in.” They stated calmly. “Nooooo!!!” I shouted at them. “Kevin hates the cops! He will run from them or do something stupid because he took sleeping pills! No! Why!? Why would they do that!? I can’t believe they called the cops!” I blurted out. “He wouldn’t hurt us! We are his family! Why won’t they let us in to get him!? Ugh! When I get there, I will just sneak around them or fight my way through!” I yelled. “No, honey, that’s why we are warning you. Sandy (Kevin’s mother) did that, and they put her in the car and told her to stay there until she calmed down. They are treating it as a crime scene. There isn’t anything we can do right now but wait for him to come out.” My mother said as calmly as she could. “Well, I will find a back way in! I will scream his name so loud that he will know to come out and we are there for him.” I replied. “Mom? Mom? Are you listening to me? Ask around if there is a back way into the quarry. We need to get to him, so he doesn’t run!” I said and waited. She was talking to someone else now. I told myself: Screw this! I am wasting time! I need to get to him. I began getting back into my car when my mother got back on the phone. “Shina?” She said in a small cracked voice. “Shina, they saw a body in the water. They think it’s Kevin.” Her words echoed in my ears growing louder and farther away each time. Everything went black.
I don’t know how long I was lying on the ground by the side of the road, but I finally awoke. No! It’s not real! They don’t know what they saw! He could have been swimming to get out of the quarry? Maybe he fell and was hurt, but would be okay? I picked up my phone and got back into the car. I don’t know how I managed to drive the rest of the way. It was as if I was transported there or floating miraculously. I don’t remember anything until I got there.
I arrived at the quarry. Becca, the family, and some friends that lived nearby were there. The police were all over. It was like walking into a scene from your worst nightmare. I was still in shock and disbelief. I felt tears forming behind my eyes. No! Never let them see ya cry kid. Be tough. I sucked up the tears and pulled back my shoulders. Kevin said to be tough. I have to be tough. I remember walking around and getting whatever information I could from anyone who knew anything. I got to Becca. She looked dazed. I started to apologize to her for not answering her calls. She cut me off and said, “ He called me and told me he wanted to talk. He said he had a gun and sleeping pills. I didn’t know what to do? He wanted to talk about us and the girls. Later he called again and said, ‘ Tell the girls that they will always have an angel on their shoulder now. Tell them I love them.’ I didn’t know what to do!?” She kept repeating it over and over to me, half speaking and half crying. I grabbed her and hugged her. I squeezed her shoulder with my hand so tightly. Don’t let them see you cry kid. Be tough. I need to stay strong for Becca and for my family.
I will never forget the smell of the air that day or the sound of the gravel under my shoes, the flashing lights of the cop cars or the looks on my family’s faces. They say that when you experience a traumatic moment in life, that it creates a scar or an injury to your brain that you never fully heal from. Those smells, the sights, and all of the tiny details that day repeat themselves in my mind everyday. They don’t stop. They reappear at the most random moments.
I was still in denial and disbelief. I started asking more questions. Due to Kevin having a gun and the thick woods of the area they had sent in a robot. A ROBOT!!? What the f**k!? A few cops went in behind the robot. When they saw the body in the water everything stopped. He was floating in the middle of the quarry. Now they needed a boat to get to him. The rescue process was slow. We all waited, standing in our winter coats and holding our breaths. It had been hours until they finally got a crew together to go out on a boat to get him. Either as they got there or in the process of trying to retrieve him, he sank. It was real now. Kevin was gone.
I couldn’t scream his name or tell him I needed him. I couldn’t tell him that I loved him. I couldn’t hug him and try to squeeze the pain out of him. He couldn’t lift me off my feet or call me “kid” or “beautiful.” I wouldn’t see his toothy grin anymore. I wouldn’t hear him say my name anymore “Taw-shina”. I couldn’t tell him I was sorry. I’m sorry Kevin! I am so sorry!!! I let him down. I failed him. I didn’t catch him when he fell. I started to hyperventilate. I had to walk away. I had to be strong for my family. I had to be brave.
We all began making phone calls to other family. Sandy (Kevin’s mother) asked me to tell her other son, Brad, that Kevin was dead. I could barely get the words out of my mouth without choking or starting to sob. I held back my tears and forced the words out. He wouldn’t believe me. I had to keep saying it over and over again, each time shoving a dagger further into my heart. I went from person to person to try and be there for them. Kevin would have looked after them. He would have been strong for everyone. We all stayed as long as we were allowed. Once it started to get dark the police made us leave. They said they would have to send in dive teams. We all went back to Kevin’s parents house.
When we all got there, we were all silent. We all sat down in the living room. Becca was sitting by herself. I wanted to be angry at her still for hurting Kevin. I wanted to blame her. I am sure she felt the same energy from the rest of my family. I decided to sit next to her. I looked at her and couldn’t imagine how she felt or what it was like to be in her shoes at that moment. I only knew one thing : that Kevin loved her. He loved her so much that he was willing to threaten his own life to get her back. Kevin was my life, my world, and my heart. If Kevin loved her than I loved her. That is how he and I worked. In that instant I knew what I needed to do. I needed to love her for him. He would have wanted me to . I reached over and grabbed her hand. It was cold as ice. She looked so pale. Kevin’s mother looked frozen in a faraway place. The rest of the family was distraught, confused, angry, and sad. After some discussion we all decided to go back the next morning. I held in my tears until I got home that night. I stayed strong for my family. Kevin would have nodded his head at me and said, “You did good kid, You stayed tough.”
I walked in the door of my boyfriend’s parents house and went down to the basement where I was staying. I burst out in tears. I didn’t stop crying until morning. I didn’t want to believe he was gone. Flashes of memories swam through my mind all night, freezing them in time for me forever. I could feel that he was gone now. The fear was back. The grey haze surrounded me again. My protective forcefield wrapped itself around me once more with an evil grin. Everything felt cold and empty. Kevin was gone, my hero was gone, my heart was broken, and nothing was going to bring him back this time.
We all went to the quarry everyday that we could. The diving teams were unsuccessful. The quarry waters were so deep and frigid in January that it made it difficult for the divers. Our pain of losing Kevin was multiplied day by day as he remained at the bottom of the quarry. We would all cry and wait as they would dive. Each day that they failed to bring him up, our spirits would shatter once more and we would come back again the next morning with hopeful hearts. Kevin’s stepfather John even cursed out the dive team. “That’s my f**king son down there! You get him out!!” He screamed.
It was as if the quarry didn’t want to give him up. Kevin loved it there so much. He would go there to target practice and cliff dive. Kevin would go to iceman’s cave and drink with friends. He and Becca would go there often as well. It was the place where he would go to find peace. Maybe the quarry knew that? Maybe it was giving him one more moment of happiness? Maybe it was helping him to leave a part of his soul there at the bottom of the quarry floor to live there in nature forever?
While we were waiting for them to find Kevin, a friend nearby took us the back way to ice man’s cave to investigate the scene. Those closest to Kevin knew he didn’t kill himself. We wouldn’t believe it. We knew he fought his demons and depression, but he didn’t want to die. That wasn’t Kevin. He loved life and his girls too much. As we walked along the pathways on top of the quarry we stopped and saw a broken branch. It was freshly broken and a very large branch. Underneath it was a patch of thick ice. We all talked and examined it. We believed that as Kevin was evading the cops, he started to run out of the quarry. He had taken some sleeping pills at this point, so he would not have been very sturdy in each step he took. We believe as he stepped on that patch of ice, that he probably slipped and tried to grab onto the tree branch. The branch broke, allowing him to fall into the quarry. There was a line of rocks 20 ft or more under the tree. He could have hit them before he hit the water.
These details were never recorded or reported. The cops didn’t know the quarry like we did. They didn’t know Kevin like we did either. He was a fighter. Kevin could break at times, but he never quit. He was too stubborn to quit anything including his life.
I also went to see Kevin’s friends house where he had been staying. They showed me his room and his stuff. I walked over to his closet somberly and took down one of his shirts. I brought it to my nose and smelled it. Kevin…my heart whispered as I breathed in his smell. My eyes filled with tears. As I looked up, his friends had brought me a picture. “We wanted to give this to you. He had it by his bed.” I looked down at the picture. My breath caught in my throat. It was my 8th grade graduation picture. He was hugging me in the picture. I took the picture with trembling hands. I stared at the picture in disbelief. He kept it? He kept the picture of him hugging me? Why would he do that? I felt a wave of guilt and grief fold over me. I had to sit down. Kevin, I am so sorry. I failed you. I love you so much! You can’t be gone.
I went up to the quarry that night and brought a six pack of Guinness with me. I had brought a small stereo as well. I sat and drank beer after beer listening to “Forever” by Dropkick Murphy’s on repeat. I talked to him as if he was sitting right next to me. As I got up and started to leave for the night, I stopped and left him a beer. “Slainte Kev.” I made my way down from the quarry under the moonlight crying.
Finally, on February 4th they got his body out of the water. They did a corner’s examination on him and decided that the cause of death was head trauma and sleeping pills. He had died from hitting his head and then drowned most likely. His family offered for me to come and view the body. I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t see him like that. I worked in the medical field and had gotten very comfortable seeing corpses, but they were strangers, they weren’t Kevin. I needed to remember his laugh and his toothy grin, his bear hugs, and his sly eyes the way they were : Full of life. I had to carry them with me. I had to hold on to those memories so tightly that my mind would see him as still alive. I knew if I didn’t, I would break too.
To be continued…
Coming soon: Heroes Never Die – part 7- In Memory
Sending you all love and light,
by Dropkick Murphys
All of my dreams seem to fall by the side like a discarded thought or days fading light
I know that if I could just see you tonight
At times we may fall like we all tend to do, but I’ll reach out and find that I’ll run into you
Your power and strength that carried me through
Your kindness for weakness I never mistook I worried you often yet you understood that life is so fleeting these troubles won’t last
Inspired me truly you did from the start to not be afraid and to follow my heart there’s a piece of you with me they can’t tear apart
Forever I’ll find you, forever you we’ll be
Forever your power and strength stays with me
Forever I’ll find you, forever you we’ll be
Forever your power and strength stays with me
***To my family: I did the best that I could to write the story to the best of my abilities. I focused mainly on my emotions and the events that I experienced that day. Everyone had various feelings that day and a different sequence of events than my own. My only intention with this story is to represent Kevin in the way that I remember him and to keep his memory alive. It is also a way to help others heal. It is also helping me to heal as well. I hope I have not hurt or offended anyone with the words that I wrote. I love you all, and together we will all keep him alive and keep this family together. Thank you for all of your love and support.- Tashina ***
3 thoughts on “Heroes Never Die – Part 6 – Darkness”
Keep up the good work!!!
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I stumbled on this because I was thinking about my youth in PA and hanging out at Chapman Quarry a lot. I am so very sorry for you and your family’s loss. Your story and love for your cousin was very moving and I hope it helped you heal some.
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It has helped me heal and my wish was to help others heal that have gone through the same kind of loss.
Thank you for reading!
Chapman Quarry was definitely a beautiful place to hang out as kids. I have many memories there as well.