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A Community Comes Together

Preston Hirten

Preston Hirten

The circumstances were tragic.  But the response of the Westport community was loving, gratifying — and overwhelming.

Preston Hirten’s death at age 20 Tuesday afternoon is incomprehensible.  Yet it brought out the best in Westport.

Some people here knew Preston well.  Others only admired him from the top of the Staples soccer field, or knew his mother or sisters, or his father from the Country Liquor Store he owned.

But quietly and expertly, all came together to help the family — and each other — cope with an unfathomable loss.

Some organized a magnificent ceremony Friday evening at the Staples field.  Small but significant details — lighting candles in the shape of Preston’s soccer number 15, so that as darkness fell at the end, everyone gazed upon the beautiful, riveting scene — made a tearful occasion truly wondrous.

Other people did whatever they could.  They provided water for Saturday’s moving (but very hot) service at the Unitarian Church.  They donated mattresses so Preston’s 25 University of Mary Washington teammates could sleep together in 1 house here Friday night — and a pool for them to cool off in before Saturday’s memorial.

Some picked people up at airports, or drove relatives around.  Others simply provided a shoulder to cry on, a hand to hold, an ear to listen.

This is not the 1st time such a tragedy has rocked Westport, and it won’t be the last.  It is simply the freshest and most raw.

As a soccer player Preston drew his team together, helping his boys form a tight, immutable bond.  In death, he drew his town together.  This week, we all proudly played on Preston’s team.

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