Classmates gather in remembrance

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Front from left are Crystal Ellis and Misty Troester, with members of the class of 2018, front from left, Amelia Berns, Sophie Berns, Eric Ihde, and Nicole Schaefers; back row, Brianna Lucey, Brooklyn Witham, Allison Troester, Brandon Wahls, and Cole Brandel. (Press photo by Molly Moser)

By Molly Moser

Students in the class of 2018 are halfway through their freshman year. Most are 15 years old, and many still remember the day in May, 10 years ago, when they lost a classmate.

When Mrs. Valeria White assigned her English students a fictional story for the final project in their short story unit, Brianna Lucey started to pen a tale based on her lost classmate’s younger sister. “The story changed shape as I wrote,” she told The Press. “It became more and more about Jarren, and I wanted to include his family and classmates.”

She wrote down memories of her childhood friend, Jarren Moser, who was accidentally run over by a fire truck in 2005. Although Lucey lived in LaCrosse, Wis., at the time, her mother and Jarren’s mother were close friends and spent a lot of time visiting one another. “They played together probably from the time they could walk,” said Lucey’s mom, Marcia Harbaugh. 

When her writing was complete, Lucey decided to take the project a step further by surprising Jarren’s mother, Misty Troester, with a visit from her son’s preschool classmates. Lucey also invited Crystal Ellis to the gathering, the young woman who’s own eye was saved by the donation of one of Jarren’s corneas. 

Nine of Jarren’s classmates gathered in the high school library on Thursday, Feb. 5, to meet Troester and Ellis and to show their support. “I think everybody recognizes how emotionally charged this story is,” White said. When Lucey became too emotional to read her writing aloud, Troester offered to read it for her.

“The town called the accident devastating. Jarren was a well-known boy around Garnavillo and the Guttenberg area. He always brought a smile to someone’s face whenever he walked by them. Jarren’s smile was bright and cheerful, and he was always ready with a greeting. Unfortunately, Jarren gained his angel wings at a young age,” Troester read. 

Lucey’s story touched on the sadness of the situation but also recounted the joyful moments – like when Troester and Ellis finally met as Ellis landed her first skydive. Ellis’ lifelong dream was to parachute from a plane, but her eye injury kept her from doing so until she received a cornea transplant.

“The sky, big and blue, slowly released Crystal. Crystal didn’t see Misty and her daughter Emmy standing near by until after she landed on the landing strip for the skydivers. As she landed, the crowd welcomed Crystal with flowers and tears. Crystal was walking towards her family when she finally noticed Misty and Emmy. When Crystal landed safely on the ground and her parachute behind her, she ran to Misty. The two women ran and hugged each other. The sight of his eye recipient was emotional and relieving to feel her warm and inviting hug to reassure Jarren’s mother Misty, that everything would be okay. They had tears streaming down their faces. Not tears of sadness, but of happiness. The tears, little and full of emotion, rolled down Misty’s and Crystal’s rosy cheeks,” Lucey wrote. 

Tears once again fell as Troester read the story aloud. When she was finished, Lucey and the other students signed copies of the story for Ellis and Troester. “I do think of all of you often,” Troester told her son’s classmates. “I appreciate all of you guys, and I wish you all the best.” As the students filed back to class, several stopped to give Troester a hug. “I still have two of Jarren’s stuffed animals in my room,” one of his classmates admitted.

Ellis and Troester both thanked Lucey for inviting them to share her story. “Brianna is very sweet,” said Ellis, who traveled from her home near Cedar Rapids to attend the reading. After another round of group hugs, the women parted ways with another treasured memory of the bonds they share.

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