MARCH 30, 2010.

I was inspired to make this after using the new search feature. The first photo that shows up when you search my name is a photo I took when I was 17. Sorry this is a long one.
  1. This actually starts a few days before March 30. It was a Thursday, the last Thursday before my long awaited senior spring break in high school. I wasn't going anywhere for the break, but I was happy to have time off from school.
  2. That Thursday after school there was a baseball scrimmage. I was on yearbook and in charge of the baseball spread. I could have sent another photographer to grab shots of the team in action, but I loved baseball. I requested to do this spread and my brother was a coach on the team, so I figured I'd have good insight on what to write about.
  3. I didn't want to go to the scrimmage alone, though. I begged my friends (friends who also thought the guys on the team were super cute), but they all said no. Even my friends on yearbook turned down the offer, so after school I headed to the baseball field alone.
  4. I stood on the first base line and snapped as many photos as I could, watching the entire game behind the lens of my Nikon. Once the game was over, I walked over to my brother's car and sat in the passenger seat as I waited for him.
  5. While looking at all the photos I took, my brother came over to the car and asked me why I was sitting there. He (and the rest of the team) were under the impression that I was taking their group photo. I explained that the group photos were happening in front of the high school with a professional photographer.
  6. My brother insisted that I be the one to take the team photo because the boys were too lazy to walk back up to school to take the photo. I was annoyed, but willingly got out of the car and made my way to the field.
  7. I took the group photo and it was painless, though I complained to myself in my mind the entire time. I then took a few photos of just the senior boys, the boys I had been in class with for years now.
  8. As I was done and walking back to the car, one of the seniors on the team grabbed me. Chris, a friend of mine who was in my English class, begged me to take a photo of him and his two best friends (Vinny and Dan). My friendship with Chris consisted of him constantly asking me things and me telling him no, but this time I said yes.
  9. I snapped a photo of the three boys, whom I had known for what felt like forever. I had known Chris since 4th grade (before he moved to our town) because my brother dated her step sister. Vinny and I had known each other since we were kids because our dads coached little league together. And Dan and I were good friends in 6th grade.
    Chris (left), Vinny (middle), and Dan (right).
  10. The next day Chris begged to see the photos in English class and I told him that he could see them on Facebook that weekend.
  11. That Saturday, the first day of Spring Break, I went to another game and snapped more photos of the boys. Later that night I uploaded all of the photos to Facebook as promised.
  12. Flash forward a few days to March 30th. It started off like any typical spring break day for me. I woke up without an alarm, sat on the couch and turned on the TV. Step Brothers was on and I watched it for a bit, but couldn't help but be distracted by the sirens I could hear outside.
  13. Sirens are no strange thing. I never really think twice when I hear the sound of a fire truck or a police car or an ambulance, but there was something about this day that had me concerned. Even my dog was acting strange as the sirens went off, so I decided to see if there was something about it on television.
  14. I flipped on the local news, but there was nothing. Why would there be? Whatever was happening was happening now. There was no way there would be a news report yet. And even so, every siren doesn't mean a grand news report. Brushing it aside, I turned Step Brothers back on and carried on with my day.
  15. Amanda was supposed to come over that day. We were talking on the phone when I got a text from my brother requesting that I don't call him and that Chris and Vinny may have been in a bad car accident.
  16. I read the text to Amanda, super confused by it. Was this some weird joke or something? April Fools day was coming up... My brother had left for baseball practice earlier that morning and even though the text was a serious one, I honestly brushed it aside. What was he talking about?
  17. I continued my conversation with Amanda, but was soon interrupted again by a phone call from my dad. "Did you hear?" I could tell in his voice that something bad had happened. The text from Frankie wasn't a joke.
  18. Panicking, I ran to my computer and logged onto Facebook. Nothing was out of the ordinary. Everyone was updating their statuses and uploading photos and commenting on each other's walls like it was your average day.
  19. I then got a Facebook message from someone I went to school with. I wasn't really friends with them, but they asked me if someone from the baseball team was in the accident. They figured I of all people would know because how close I was to the team. I told them I didn't know, but deep down this was the confirmation I needed. Something did happen.
    Then my Facebook messages blew up. Multiple strangers from school were sending me messages and asking me what was going on.
  20. Chris and Vinny were on their way to baseball practice that morning when they got into a car accident. They both passed away.
  21. That afternoon everyone went to school, but I refused. I refused to believe it was real. It couldn't be real. Everyone was going to return to school the next morning too and I agreed to go then. I didn't think I would really have to, though. Chris and Vinny couldn't be gone. This was just some sick joke. It had to be.
  22. When I woke up the next day, everyone in my house was already gone. I got ready and went to the kitchen to eat breakfast. There was a newspaper on the counter with Chris and Vinny on the front page. I broke down. This was real. I texted my friends and family and told them I couldn't go. My mom told me to be strong and that going would be good.
  23. At the last second, I agreed again. My friend Carly picked me up and we silently drove to school. It was still spring break, but the school was packed.
  24. I remember sitting at a table with a few of my friends in the lunch room. A few of them told me their biggest regret was not coming with me to the baseball games the week before. A grief counselor sat down with us to chat.
  25. I was silent for the most part. I kept my head down and didn't talk and didn't cry. I then got a tap on the shoulder. An unfamiliar face was standing behind me. "Kaitlyn Vella?" I stood up and nodded and almost immediately the woman hugged me and started sobbing. She was Dan's mom. It was that moment that I couldn't hold it in anymore.
  26. As she cried, she thanked me for taking that photo of the three boys. I didn't realize it then, but that photo was one of the last photos taken of Chris and Vinny.
  27. The photo ended up on almost every news station that week. As news anchors talked about the tragic events, the photo I took appeared in the corner of the screens. It's the most cherished photo I have ever taken.
  28. The next month was a hard one. Going back to school wasn't easy. There was a somber feeling in the halls and nothing felt right.
  29. Chris and Vinny were two of the most lovable, well-known boys in our school. Chris was outgoing and popular and friends with literally everyone. He made everyone feel special and unique. Vinny was more quiet and soft spoken, but when he smiled and laughed you couldn't help but do the same.
  30. The senior class became a tight-knight family after that day. We all came together and really learned to cherish the memories we had with the boys and the memories we were making with each other. It's what Chris and Vinny would have wanted.
  31. I ended up going to every home baseball game that season (and even some away games too). The team had an incredible season, one of their best, and one can't help but think it's because of the angels in the outfield that were guiding them along.
  32. My brother and I also teamed up to sell bracelets in their memory, raising money for both families and the scholarship funds that were in the boys' names. I also helped sell t-shirts in their honor that a few of my friends and I helped design. I can't even begin to tell you how much money we raised for their scholarships.
  33. Chris was the little brother my brother never had. When my brother dated his step sister, they had an immediate bond. I remember Chris having no friends in our neighborhood in 5th grade, but begging to have a party here anyway. He invited me to his outdoor sleepover party and I couldn't go and I was so upset.
    He called me the next day to let me know he was happy I couldn't make it because everyone had gotten poison ivy and he was happy I didn't get it too.
  34. When he finally moved to our town, he didn't remember who I was. We were in high school now. It wasn't until junior year that he put the pieces together and we became friends again. In our senior year English class he asked me to read his college essay and help him out.
    His essay was about how moving to our town was going to help him when it came to going away to college. It was a beautiful essay and I remember telling him that he didn't need my help. It was perfect.
  35. Vinny and I were never best friends, but I had known him since I could remember. Our dads were both on the Little League board, so the two of us were constantly at the baseball fields when we're young. Junior year of high school we had English together. My teacher always had a really weird way of getting people to partner up.
    They were things like "partner with someone wearing similar shoes as you" or "partner with someone who has a same letter initial as you." I couldn't be bothered to ever find anyone in the class and evidently neither could Vinny. Because of this, we were constantly partners. I would do most of the work and he would shyly ask me if I was going to put his name on our work too. I always did.
  36. Vinny and Chris may no longer be physically with us, but I know they'll always be my town's angels in the outfield. I will miss them forever.
  37. 💙