CHHS student killed in prom night wreck

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 24, 2001

Staff Writer

The laughter and excitement of the prom turned into tears and surprise for Charles Henderson High School students.

Only a few hours after seniors walked out for introductions Saturday night, one of the members of the class of 2001 was killed in a one-vehicle accident on U.S. Highway 231.

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The joy of the prom was quickly overshadowed when word got out that 19-year-old

Anthony Todd Pennington was killed when the vehicle he was driving overturned just north of Troy on U.S. Highway 231.

Ziad Rollins, also a senior at CHHS, was one of the last individuals to see his friend alive.

Rollins, Pennington and their dates had dinner at Applebees in Montgomery before the fatal accident.

"I was with him the whole day," Rollins said of the sociable young man with whom he went to school and worked at Troy Cablevision. "The whole day, we’d been clowning around."

The young man is still finding it hard to believe his friend is gone, even after the "phone rang all night" Saturday with people calling to talk about Pennington’s death.

He will remember Pennington as being talkative and someone who would say what was on his mind.

Linda Felton, principal at CHHS, said that talkativeness sometimes got Pennington in trouble, but he was so "fun-loving" that nobody seemed to mind.

"He could make people laugh and was capable of being the center of attention," Felton said.

It is that ability to make people laugh that will stand out in Chris Jackson’s memory.

Jackson, also a senior at CHHS, considered Pennington more than a friend.

"He was my best friend, but was like a brother to me," Jackson said. "I looked up to him."

For Jackson, going to school Monday was difficult because his friend’s vehicle should have been parked next to him and it wasn’t. He also wasn’t in class.

"I can hear him in my mind," Jackson said. "It seems like I’m in another world and isolated."

Those feelings of aloneness began when the phone rang at 1:05 a.m. Sunday and the caller gave his family the devastating news.

"I fell down on my knees and started crying," Jackson said, remembering the friend who had promised to call when he got home from Montgomery.

"I didn’t know that was going to be the last time I talked to him," Jackson said recalling that moment. "He’s gone and there’s no bringing him back."

As the flag flying at half mast declares the sadness inside the school, students are also "very concerned" about another classmate who was Pennington’s passenger.

Rasheda Manor, 17, of Troy was seriously injured and was in critical condition at University of Alabama Medical Center in Birmingham.

"We’re extending our prayers to Rasheda," Felton said of the CHHS junior. "She needs our prayers, now."

Felton said the students are emotional over the accident and "are handling it as well as can be expected."

On Thursday, students will be dismissed a little after 1 p.m., giving students the opportunity to attend Pennington’s funeral at 2:30 p.m.

Employees of Troy Cablevision will also be in attendance at the funeral, honoring the memory of a "dependable" employee.

June Freeman described Pennington as a "real good kid" who was always willing to do what was asked of him.

Steve Camp watched Pennington walk in the door early each morning for the morning shows.

"He was great," Camp said of the young man who worked for him. "He was dependable, which is hard to find these days. I didn’t have to worry about whether or not he was going to be here. He was here."

Camp said Pennington’s death is even more sorrowful because of his plans for the future, such as walking on the football team at Tuskegee University.

"He had a lot going to look forward to," Camp said of the young man he called an "all around good kid."

According to information provided by the Alabama State Troopers, the accident occurred at 11:03 p.m. There was no indication safety belts were in use and Troopers will not release information as to whether alcohol was involved.