Student athletes showed their support by coming to the vigil in their team colors. Our Innae Park has more on how the teens put aside their rivalries to remember the crash victims.
CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. –- Enveloped by an entire community, the many mourning Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers knew they were not alone.
“Suddenly we felt like we were getting a giant hug from schools we compete so fiercely against,” said Shenendehowa Athletic Director Chris Culhan. “We heard from schools all across the capital district, that prayers were being offered and that everyone was thinking of us.”
Shenendehowa alumnus Aaron Whitney said, “It’s been so powerful, to see our biggest enemies in any sports or anything, wearing our colors.”
Among them, Saratoga High School students, who proudly wore green two days after the fatal crash to show support for Shen. Hockey team captain Brendon Wormley said, “We’re all here supporting everyone.”
Thousands packed the stadium to stand alongside Shenendehowa and Shaker, putting competition aside. Before the vigil began, players from opposing schools formed at the sideline. Players on the Shen football team slowly walked down, receiving hundreds of hugs and words of condolences from them.
“It’s like a typical thing for sports to have rivalries,” said Mia DiRienzo, a student from Niskayuna High School. “But I think now, it’s not just that. I think it’s like, now we’re all a community, and even though we go to different schools, we’re all part of the same community.”
Guilderland Dutchman Xavier Flowers said, “We’re trying to come together as one, because this basically brought everybody together in the 518.”
And even beyond.
“We know these schools would be there for us if it happened at our school,” said Wormley. “It’s just a horrific tragedy that happened, and we’re just trying to be here for them.”
Culhan said, “We owe a debt of gratitude to all those schools who helped us pull through this.”
In another gesture of remembering Stewart and Rivers, Culhan announced the Shen Athletic Department would be retiring their respective numbers in their sports: 69 for Stewart in football, 19 for Rivers in softball.