By Tim Leeds/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Friends of Whitney Schwan gathered Tuesday morning to put up a message at Sixth Avenue Memorial Field - a message of love and a warning not to drink and drive.
"We (love) you Whitney #12," the message says.
"It's like a message for people to stop and think about what they are doing," said Kaylee Benner, who will be a freshman at Havre High School this fall. "I could die today if I drink and drive."
"We just don't want to have to go through this again," said Kristin Evanson, who will be a senior.
Schwan, who wore No. 12 on Havre's girls fast pitch softball team, died Monday from injuries she suffered in a one-car rollover late Saturday. The driver, 20-year-old Travis Turner, also was killed.
The Montana Highway Patrol said alcohol and speed were factors in the crash 4 miles south of Havre.
Schwan and Turner, who were not wearing seat belts, were thrown from the car. Another passenger, 18-year-old Anthony Bonavita, was wearing a seat belt. He suffered a dislocated shoulder in the crash.
More than 30 of Schwan's friends went to the high school Tuesday night to make a banner in her memory, and to create a scrapbook for her family. Schwan would have been a junior at Havre High School this fall.
People wrote personal notes on the banner.
'"I will miss your smile," one friend wrote.
"I'll miss you forever and love you always," another message said.
"You always brought a smile to everyone's face! I will miss you," wrote another friend.
Julie Owens, who will be a junior, said she was trying to show that she is there to help the Schwan family.
"She was my best friend," Owens said. "I'm trying to stay strong for the family."
Tiana Waite, who will be a sophomore, said she went down to visit Schwan and her family at the hospital in Great Falls.
According to Whitney's father,
Daryl "Dusty" Schwan, Whitney was brain dead when she arrived at Benefis Healthcare in Great Falls on Sunday and was kept on life support until her organs could be harvested for donation. She was pronounced dead on Monday afternoon.
Dusty Schwan said all major organs, including her heart, liver, kidneys and pancreas, were taken for donation.
Waite said she was motivated to publicly memorialize Whitney partly by the frustraion she felt at the hospital.
"It made me feel like I could do nothing for her," Waite said.
She had thought about driving out to Beaver Creek Park with Schwan, Turner and Bonavita on Saturday night but decided not to. She could have died too, she said.
"I just hope to make people realize drinking and driving - drinking - isn't smart," Waite said.
Annette Borst, whose daughters Katie and Tara played softball with Whitney, was with the teens decorating the ballpark fence. Borst said she hopes something good comes from the tragedy: Maybe young people will think before they act recklessly.
"I hope they learn a lesson from it," she said.
Evanson said the tragedy has changed her attitude, especially about seat belts.
"I'll wear my seat belt all the time," she said. "Every time I get in my car I think about Whitney."
She hopes it makes others think about what they are doing.
"I don't think they fully understand," Evanson said. "All teenagers have this thought in their head, 'it won't happen to me,' but it does.
"I'm sure Whitney was thinking it wouldn't happen to her."
Dusty Schwan said his daughter's friends have helped his family deal with the loss. More than 150 people came to a prayer service at St. Jude's Catholic Church on Sunday for Whitney, he said, and many plan to attend a vigil service at 7 p.m. Thursday, and the funeral at 10 a.m. Friday, both at St. Jude's.
Beth Courtnage, head cheerleading coach at Havre High, said she and Mary Pat Bebee had originally planned to hold the prayer service Sunday at Courtnage's house. The response was so great that they decided to move it to St. Jude's Parish Center.
Schwan, a junior varsity cheeleader last year, was going to be a varsity cheerleader in the coming year.
Dusty Schwan said his daughter had many friends and was involved in many activities in addition to cheerleading, including a church youth group at St. Jude's Catholic Church, softball, and basketball.
"She really loved school," he added.