Not who I knew

Written by: Jaylin Hardin | Sports Editor

Content warning: gun violence, murder

We all have a friend who has been close to us for years. For me, it was a boy named Alex. Alex and I met during our junior year of high school during football season. He had just transferred from the 6A school in our area and was on the football team. I was the football team manager. I don’t really remember our first meeting in all honesty. 

Alex and I became fast friends and then like siblings. We were tight. 90% of my Snapchat memories from Senior year are from that f—-r either sleeping or pulling some shenanigans in class. He was especially close with my mom, sometimes even preferring to hang out with her over me when we’d fight over petty s–t.

Alex didn’t always have the best life. His biological mother abandoned him, and his adoptive family kicked him out as soon as he was 18. But, we still tried our best to stay in contact, even with our busy schedules, me with school and work, him sometimes out of service for months working for Grayback Forestry.

The last time I heard from him was Aug. 14, when he warned me about a fire that was close to Salem. My last two texts have remained unread since. Ten days prior, he had done the unthinkable.

I didn’t know about it until recently, maybe two weeks ago, only a few days after his arrest. My mom had called me and told me the news — she had found out from her former coworker. The world spun constantly that day.

Information on what happened is limited. I can’t even find the full story, but, from what I understand, Alex was somewhere he should not have been with some friends he should not have been with. Their day out ended with shooting someone and then to ensure he was dead, ran him over with their truck. His “friends” had been arrested almost immediately — it took them longer to connect Alex to the crime. The idiot had sent texts about covering up the crime and had photos of the victim’s firearm on his phone.

I think I cried all day that day. I was angry and felt like I failed my friend, like I didn’t do enough to help him. His last texts to me were looking out for me. I don’t think when the police searched his phone they even read my messages. They are still unread.

For me, the hardest thing is finding out someone you would trust with your life could do something so horrible. Alex was the person I trusted everything with in high school, the person who knew almost everything about me. We walked together at graduation. He is my brother. 

Finding out what he did was the worst. 

This is not the Alex I know. 

The Alex I know is sweet and funny. He makes smart decisions and has a somewhat steady head on his shoulders. 

At the same time, it terrifies me. What if this is truly who he is and he had just hidden it all this time? What if I had done more to help him stay on track and out of trouble?

My mom feels like she failed him too. Alex had been in her ERC — Educational Resource Center — classroom for his ADHD and that is mostly where their bond formed — where she developed her maternal feelings toward him. She still calls him her kid. 

This is not the Alex she knows either.

As I sit here on my laptop, staring at what he is being charged with, I am sobbing. This was my best friend and now he is someone I no longer know.

So far, he has had two court dates, one for the first three initial charges: second-degree murder, criminal conspiracy and aggravated assault. There was a second court date adding on two more charges: hindering prosecution and tampering with evidence. My high school best friend is being charged with four felonies and a misdemeanor.

I am not sitting here and telling this story without a purpose or a reason. Part of me wanted to share this because I know, somewhere out there, people are going through the same thing. Their brother or sister or father or mother has done something unspeakable and they don’t know how to feel. Sometimes it’s horror, sometimes it’s pain.

I also wanted to highlight how unexpected life can really be and how it changes people. I had gone weeks without thinking about Alex and this news suddenly came up and rocked my world. I was not expecting it at all. And I think in a way, him not answering my texts was almost how he could avoid having people close to him questioned about his character by the police. His way of trying to keep the people close to him out of this.

I still feel angry at my friend. I feel sad. I will not get him back for years and when I do, he will be a completely changed person, and so will I because of his actions. He will be hardened, brittle and angry. I will likely be a wife and a mother by the time he is released. And when he is, I will still be there to support him and hopefully get him on his feet. 

No matter the stupid things he does, Alex is my brother and best friend. He always will be, murder charges will never change that. Especially when I think about the situation he had to be in to do such a thing.

Alex will always be my brother. 

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