Shannon Speaks: The 518 Movement – A Community’s Reaction to a Tragedy

On December 1, four local high school students were hit by a drunk driver, while coming home from a Siena Saints basketball game around 10 p.m. in my hometown of Clifton Park, NY, according to local newspapers.

The four students, three Shenendehowa High School students and one Shaker High School student, were all well-known athletes. Shenendehowa seniors Deanna Rivers and Chris Stewart were killed. Shaker senior Bailey Wind and Shenendehowa junior Matt Hardy were left in critical condition.

The Shenendehowa High School and Clifton Park community has been absolutely devastated by this tragedy. The lives of four local families have been changed forever.

I did not know Stewart personally, but from what I read about him on Facebook and Twitter, he had a big heart with a kind soul. He was the captain of the football team and was being heavily recruited by colleges. He proudly wore his school colors daily: green and white, and also deeply adored Wind, his girlfriend.

However, I did had the pleasure of knowing Rivers. I watched her grow up playing softball on my Dad’s travel team and for her high school team. She befriended my younger sister, Colleen and brought out the best in her. Her bubbly and loving personality had a way of transforming any room she walked into. She was a beautiful girl inside and out. Although I had trouble keeping track of all of Colleen’s softball teammates over the years, Rivers was someone who never left my mind.

Two days after the horrific tragedy overwhelmed the community, they came together to lift the spirits of the two survivors of the fatal car crash. The entire Capital Region and the 518 area-code high school students and faculty members wore green in support of the students who were killed and for Hardy’s recovery.

Even notorious rival schools such as Saratoga and Shaker High put aside their traditional blue school colors and proudly wore green yesterday. Local television and radio stations paid tribute to the young lives that were lost.  A remix of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” was created by Fly 92.3, a local radio station. The remix was titled, “Diamonds Green and Blue Remix” and has since been repeatedly shared.

Today, students and members of the 518 community all across the country will wear blue in support of Wind and her recovery.  Shenendehowa reciprocated the gesture Shaker High had done for them the day before. Quoting the caption of the photo posted by Shenendehowa on Facebook this morning, “The sea of green turns blue. Shen unites with Shaker in honor of Bailey Wind, Matt Hardy, Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers.”

ImageThis morning, Colleen sent me a text message that read, “We all went into the gym to take a picture of all the blue. Then a student stood up and started chanting, “We love Shaker!” and then we sent a video to Shaker of that. And then we all started chanting, “I believe that we can win!” cheer. Every single adult in the room was crying. It was amazing.”

But there is something else I would like my friends and family members to know. Last night, Shenendehowa and Shaker High started a movement.

I named the movement “The 518 Movement”. Together, thousands of people nationwide, came together to help lift the spirits of the two survivors and it was all because local students got behind their keyboards and tweeted.

It started with the tweet, #TebowCallMatt. Local students encouraged others to tweet and retweet this hashtag. Soon enough, Shenendehowa alumni were tweeting, and then their friends and family too. Within minutes, this movement took over the Internet. In less than two hours, people all across the country were tweeting it. The hashtag reached the 3rd most tweeted topic in the world.

The hope was that NFL football player Tim Tebow would call Hardy, a big fan, to help lift his spirits. Hardy lost his girlfriend and best friend on Saturday night. The community wanted to do something for him and in just a few hours, the hashtag became a trending topic in the United States and soon, ESPN was talking about it live on the air.

The result, Tebow called Hardy. 

TimTebow
Thanks to everyone who got #TebowCallMatt trending & helped connect us. Matt truly inspired me. God bless y’all
12/3/12 9:30 PM

Not only did he get to talk to his idol, but New York Yankees Pitcher Joba Chamberlain, got a hold of the story and phoned him too. He tweeted that he had left Hardy a message and encouraged the community to keep on fighting.

But it didn’t stop there. The next twitter trend began for Wind. The hashtag #MissyCallBailey instantly became another trending topic. The 518 spent another two hours tweeting up a storm. Everyone was encouraged by Tebow’s phone call to Hardy and wanted to get Olympic Gold Medalist Missy Franklin to call Wind. At around midnight, Franklin tweeted that she had phoned her.

FranklinMissy
Called Bailey and left her a voicemail. Would still love to talk to her. Bailey and her community are in my thoughts and prayers #staystrong
12/3/12 11:47 PM

According to The Times Union, more than 50,000 Twitter users had retweeted the hashtag, #TebowCallMatt and 16,700 had tweeted #MissyCallBailey. Twitter users began referring to this movement as the #518Miracle.

People around the country began tweeting and talking about the movement that the 518 began. USA Today even published an article about what happened in this upstate town. Other celebrities also caught onto the story.

FraankOceaan
The 518 community is truly amazing, for coming together for friends. Much love to everyone in the #518family. God Bless.❤ #TebowCallMatt
12/3/12 9:34 PM

People will say many things about my generation and how social media has ruined us, but last night, the 518 proved otherwise. This community used social media to unite. 

It is going to be a very long road for the 518 community. The lives of two promising, beautiful and bright individuals were robbed by an intoxicated driver. They will never be the same after losing Rivers and Stewart, but it is obvious that this community will stick together.

Last night and today, my generation made history. My community put aside differences and came together to support those who are hurting. The next movement the 518 community swears they are going to start is to, “take the pledge to end drunk driving.”

MorganCooper5
I #pledge to never drink and drive, EVER!!
12/3/12 11:40 PM
mhunter6
I will NEVER EVER drink and drive. #pledge
12/3/12 11:21 PM
Kgibsonn23
I pledge to never drink&drive #pledge #respect
12/3/12 11:23 PM
colleenbean15
I pledge to never drink and drive
12/3/12 11:08 PM
abbyjurg
Pledging to not drink and drive is something you can never regret. #DontDrinkAndDrive #RestInPeaceChrisAndDeanna
12/3/12 11:00 PM
big_sean12
we need to get a stop drunk driving movement going. if we can connect with celebs we can do anything. RT and spread the word. lets go 518.
12/3/12 11:34 PM
SHoinski
Everyone #pledge to NEVER drink and drive. We made basically history tonight..so lets tweet to PREVENT, so no more precious lives are taken💕
12/3/12 10:27 PM
jessbouche
I swear on everything in this entire world I will never ever consume any amount of alcohol and then get behind the wheel #pledge
12/3/12 11:28 PM

A candlelight vigil for the victims will be held at 7:15 p.m. today on the Shenendehowa High School football field. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. 

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