The night before the tragedy, Michael Chadbourne’s football coach watched the Franklin senior outrun another, faster player.
Chadbourne was one of Franklin’s defensive players; and at practice on June 5, the team was running back and forth, between and around cones, to build speed and agility. Coach Adam Reese had the players running through the cones in pairs, and during the workout Chadbourne outperformed another player who was usually quicker.
Reese had the two players run the drill again, and Chadbourne outran his teammate for a second time.
Reese was pleased. Chadbourne wasn’t satisfied showing occasional progress, he wanted to keep getting better. Reese knew he could use that kind of competitive edge on the football field, but more importantly he knew that the qualities he was seeing in Chadbourne would serve him later in life, as he dealt with challenges at work or with family.
“I just thought that he matured emotionally and socially, as well as on the football field,” Reese said. “His efforts, determination, perseverance.”
The next day, Chadbourne, Jason Moran, Mark Nally and Trent Crabb went over the dam in the Big Blue River trying to help their friend, Sarah McLevish, who was swept over the dam first. Chadbourne, Moran and McLevish were all pulled under the water at the base of the dam.
Chadbourne and McLevish surfaced but weren’t breathing and were given CPR before being taken to Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis. Chadbourne died early Wednesday morning, after arrangements were made to donate his organs.
Moran’s body was found at the base of the dam on Sunday.
McLevish remains in critical condition at Methodist.
On Friday, hundreds of people returned to Franklin Community High School to say goodbye to Chadbourne. The high school hosted a memorial for Moran on Wednesday, and Friday’s service was a chance for people to share stories and to support Chadbourne’s family.
Both ceremonies ended by releasing hundreds of blue and white balloons into the sky from the middle of the high school’s football field.
Friends, family and other members of the community wore blue dresses, shirts, ties and high-heeled shoes, matching the royal blue ribbons tied on the fences at the school and throughout the city in honor of the teens who died.
Jagger Maupin often spent time with Chadbourne, Moran and the rest of their group of friends. They had talked about hanging out the weekend of the accident, but Maupin was in Chicago. When he heard about what happened, he couldn’t comprehend it.
“It broke me. I didn’t want to believe it,” he said.
Maupin spent nearly every day at the hospital while Chadbourne was there. He was there early in the morning when they took Chadbourne off life support.
It was heartbreaking for all of his friends and family to lose such a good and happy young man. Now he’s praying for McLevish, hoping her family doesn’t have to go through the same experience.
On Friday, James Cummings stepped out of the high school, wiping the corners of his eyes with the back of his hand. He can’t help but dwell on the last conversation he had with Chadbourne before the accident. His voice cracked as he recited the story.
“I was asking him about his summer. And he said, ‘It’s going to be the best one yet,’” Cummings said.
Cummings had to work during the day and never got a chance to visit Chadbourne at the hospital before he died Wednesday morning.
He regrets not skipping work and facing the consequences later, he said.
They had several math and Spanish classes throughout high school and played football together. Chadbourne always came into class with a new turf burn from practice or games. Class was simply better when Chadbourne was in it, he said.
Some visitors didn’t know Chadbourne but came out to support the grieving family. An emergency worker who responded to the dam. A parent who had never met Chadbourne but had two sons that played football with him. Friends of his parents who came to show their support.
Franklin resident Bus Flater met Chadbourne’s father this week but couldn’t talk about the teen he’d never met without tears welling up. He was impressed with Chadbourne, who jumped into a river trying to save a friend.
“I never met Micky. But, boy, didn’t he have to be a wonderful kid,” Flater said.
Jon and Ange Lusk came to honor the boy they remember for the 2 a.m. trips to Taco Bell with Ange’s son Kanyon Smith. Chadbourne and other friends would play pingpong in the Lusk garage or hang out in Kanyon’s bedroom with music blaring.
The teens were free-spirited and loved to have fun, but Chadbourne was also respectful, stopping to greet the couple when he came to their house and saying, “Yes, ma’am,” Jon Lusk said.
He also loved his family, playing board games like Monopoly and sports, including football and baseball, with his cousins, his uncle Tony Napolitano said. He liked to crack jokes and make funny faces for pictures, he said.
Chadbourne’s sense of humor showed in school, also, where he and Moran would make up words and say them to each other in class, classmate Ryan Byrd said. He met Chadbourne when they were both in seventh grade and knew him as an outgoing and fun boy.
Byrd wanted to show his respect for Chadbourne’s family, and both teens who died, on Friday.
“They are Franklin’s heroes,” he said.
Chadbourne’s parents are still in shock over their son’s death, so the community’s support is likely a blur, uncle Steven Chadbourne said. But he has seen that residents genuinely care.
This week, Steven Chadbourne went to a department store to get a shirt, and when a woman there realized it was for his nephew’s funeral, she began to cry, he said.
“It means a lot. I feel like people are sharing the pain,” he said. “It wasn’t expected. It was very welcome.”
Chadbourne, Moran, Nally, Crabb and about eight of their other friends called themselves the Goon Squad. When Deb Brown-Nally, Mark Nally’s mother, spoke at Chadbourne’s memorial, she shared some of the group’s favorite memories.
“We’re going to remember both boys today,” Brown-Nally said. “We’re just going to talk a little bit more about Mick.”
As eighth-graders, the friends thought they had created and perfected the art of ringing someone’s doorbell and running away. Chadbourne, the fastest of the group, always outran his friends as they made their escape.
Then there was the canoe trip Chadbourne took with Crabb.
The trip was originally supposed to last six hours, not nine. But that was before the pair missed their stopping point. Then, as they continued down the river, they heard what sounded like an ax chopping something in the woods around them.
That wiped out any plans Chadbourne and Crabb had of getting out of the water. Instead, they tied themselves to a stick they saw coming out of the water and waited until a kayaker with a cellphone stopped and let them call Crabb’s stepfather for a pickup.
Brown-Nally spent Thursday night listening to Chadbourne’s friends tell stories about their friend, and she spoke Friday night about the value Chadbourne and the Goon Squad put in their friendships.
“(Friendship) so deep that they risked their lives to save each other,” she said.
The teens have been inseparable since last weekend’s tragedy.
In packs of at least six or seven, the group has prayed together, cried together, conducted vigils, visited Methodist Hospital or built bonfires and told stories about their friends. They’ve also rallied around Nally and Crabb, reminding them that they’re not alone, Brown-Nally said.
“Jason and Michael were both so lucky to have this group of goons in their life,” Brown-Nally said. “I’ve just seen their true spirit of friendship this week.”
Reese and Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness also spoke at Chadbourne’s memorial. Gov. Mike Pence, who spoke at Moran’s memorial, couldn’t attend Chadbourne’s service. But he gave McGuinness a letter to read at the ceremony.
Moran’s and Chadbourne’s mothers also received state flags from the governor, McGuinness said.
McGuinness planned to keep his comments brief. He wanted to acknowledge that Franklin is feeling a lot of emotions right now, having lost two teens within a week.
“With each student, your heart just gets heavier and heavier,” he said. “It doesn’t get any easier.”
But he also wanted to remind the people that eventually residents’ lives will start to return to normal. And that’s when the families who have lost their children are going to need even more support, McGuinness said.