The Duncan Banner
For the Bray-Doyle Class of 2013, commencement Friday was an opportunity to honor the memory of two classmates whose lives were cut short before reaching graduation.
There were 24 Bray-Doyle seniors who crossed the stage in the school gym.
However, some focus was drawn to the two empty seats in the front row. Nothing but folded gowns, a cap and blue roses sat on them, a way for the class to recognize those no longer with them.
“September 19, 2008, a day that Bray-Doyle will never forget,” said Austin Long, Class of 2013. “Nothing can prepare you for a loss like that and it shows us that we should never take life for granted.”
Long spoke of Brian Steel and Dustin Lyles, who were killed in a car wreck on the way home from a high school football during the class’ eighth grade year. Though neither boy had been their classmate for long, Steel, the class clown, and Lyles, a more laid-back personality, were quickly accepted as friends and showed promise on the junior high football team.
When the names of the seniors were called to cross the stage, Steel and Lyles were the last called. Their siblings carried the robes and caps across to accept their brothers’ diplomas. Steel’s mother Lacey, has moved to Arkansas since the passing of her son but drove six and a half hours to be there for the ceremony.
“It is the most humbling experience I have had in my life to know that the community loved these kids so much they kept their memory alive,” she said through tears. “It’s amazing and just surreal and I am honored more than I can say.”
A scholarship was given by the two families in honor of their sons. Other students were honored for their accomplishments during the evening including valedictorians Vicky Smith and Christopher Womack, and salutatorian Erica Hatfield. Each spoke and shared advice to their fellow seniors and encouraged them to be all they can in the future. Womack added some humor to his address by surprising the audience.
“Since you all have been taking so many pictures of us, I’m going to take some pictures of you,” he said as he pulled out his camera proceeded to take a few photos of the crowd.
Senior Robert Ritter played the National Anthem on his horn at the beginning of the ceremony and Breanna David sang “Long Live.”