Editorial: Another life cut short

In late September 2008, the Shoreham-Wading River community mourned the loss of a dedicated and talented teacher who died in a car accident in Wading River. Jennifer Mager of Riverhead, who taught kindergarten, was 37.

This past week marked 10 years since that tragedy, when the driver of a BMW accidentally swerved across a stretch of Route 25A and struck the vehicle in which Ms. Mager, her husband, Thomas, and their daughter, Delaney, were riding. As each year passes, the small, close-knit community is seemingly dealt one blow after another.

The strength and resilience of the community, which rallies together after each tragedy, will be on display once again in the aftermath of a crash Sunday that killed a 12-year-old Wading River Boy Scout. Four other scouts, who were hiking in Manorville with Troop 161, were also injured by an alleged drunken driver.

On the same weekend we remember the life of Ms. Mager, and on the same weekend we remember the life of Thomas Cutinella, who died at 16 on Oct. 1, 2014, we begin to mourn all over again for another life cut short far too early.

Andrew McMorris, 12, was a creative, active, ambitious boy who dreamed big. He was dedicated to achieving the rank of Eagle Scout, enjoyed activities ranging from painting to playing the piano and even achieved his first piloting goal this past summer during AeroCamp.

In the days since his death, condolences have flooded in from Boy Scout troops across the nation that are mourning together. Troop 161 of Shoreham has asked that people join together to wear a red ribbon in Andrew’s memory. 

It becomes hard to fathom how one community continually faces these moments of despair, as another family is torn apart and left to pick up the pieces without a loved one.

In 2010, 20-year-old Michelle DeFranco, who had recently graduated from Shoreham-Wading River, died in Wading River when she was hit by a pickup truck. The loss of Thomas Cutinella four years ago, following an injury in a football game, was a shock not just locally, but across the nation. His legacy lives on in myriad ways.

In 2015, a longtime security guard and driver’s ed teacher at Shoreham-Wading River High School, Richard Cambria, was killed in a car accident. He was 49. Less than a year later, the community mourned 2014 graduate Kevin Callejas, who also died in a car accident. He was 19. A few months later tragedy struck again with the loss of eighth-grader Nick Donnelly, a talented wrestler who was only 14. Earlier this year, another SWR graduate, 24-year-old Nicholas Mistretta, died in a single-car crash.

Each life lost leaves a hole in the community’s soul that will never be fully healed. 

In paying respects to the McMorris family, the Thomas Cutinella Memorial Foundation summed it up best in a Facebook post Monday:

“Life is so fragile. Remember what truly is important and love your family more than ever. Always stay present in the moment.”