EVART — Usually a place for learning and quiet studying, the feeling of Evart High School library was somber as students, staff and community members gathered to remember the 15-year-old who was reported missing after falling through ice on the Muskegon River.
Hosted by the Crossroads Youth Ministry, the library was filled on Saturday with those who had known Dylan Shaw for years, those who had only just met him and those looking for a way to start the healing process after Shaw’s disappearance.
“The main thing is that we don’t want anyone to go through this alone,‘ said Youth Pastor Rob Rounds.
Dylan was walking with two of his friends on the ice-covered river just upstream from the 50th Avenue bridge, and all three broke through. Two of the boys managed to reach safety, but the swift current swept Dylan beneath the ice, Osceola County Sheriff Justin Halladay said.
State police divers initiated a search for Dylan Thursday, but the dangerous current and deteriorating conditions soon forced them to suspend activities until Friday morning.
On Friday, with divers unable to safely enter the water, water recovery personnel resorted to dragging a light watercraft across the ice, and drilling holes through to the water and using a sonar unit in their attempt to locate the missing person.
The search was suspended Friday evening and will resume when weather conditions allow Osceola County Sheriff’s Department personnel to use its marine unit, Halladay said.
In hearing about the tragedy that had struck Evart, Rounds and some youth leaders from the Crossroads Youth Ministry wanted to give those affected a way to come together and start the healing process.
“This is a way to identify with each other in what you are going through,‘ Rounds said. “This is a chance to share what you are feeling and be free to say that you need to share about Dylan.‘
Gathered in a circle in the library, those who were comfortable shared memories of Dylan.
Dylan’s older brother Andrew Shaw shared memories of them growing up and getting into all kinds of mischief.
“One summer, we were on our little pond and we had a boat that had a hole in it. So, we thought we would wait till it got halfway filled and jump out, tip it over and jump back in,‘ he said. “Well, let’s just say we never found the boat.‘
Students recalled Dylan as “sarcastic,‘ “a protector‘ and “the kid who always fell asleep in class.‘
Teachers remembered his love for adventure, class trips and honesty.
“He was an outdoorsman,‘ said Evart High School teacher Josh Johnson. “He always wrote about his hunting trips or a buck that he got one year.‘
“He had a real sense of adventure, too,‘ Johnson said.
But most of all, everyone recalled his hair.
“His hair was just crazy,‘ said Evart Principal Jessica Kolenda. “He had so much of it. The front was always well kept and then the back just did whatever it wanted.‘
After the group had dispersed for the night, a small group stayed to decorate a memorial for Shaw in the lunchroom. Principal Kolenda helped by tying ribbon around the chair Shaw sat in at lunch.
At the table, students and staff will be able to write letters to Shaw’s family and add a link to the paper memory chain.
On Monday, the same group of students plan to decorate Shaw’s locker and have a traveling memorial to go from class to class and fill Shaw’s empty seat.
“Monday is going to be the day it all becomes real,‘ said Rounds.
There will be crisis counselors available and talk groups like the one held on Saturday for anyone at the high school who wants help in healing or just someone to talk to, said Kolenda.
The Evart school system will have a crisis response team consisting of mental health professionals, social workers and counselors on hand Monday. Middle school principal Jason O’Dell said the district will try to support students in any way possible. With Evart being such a small community, he said, it is important to offer the team’s services.
Andy Duffy contributed to this report.