Sessions remembered Tuesday

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, January 28, 2003

The mood around Charles Henderson High School was a quiet one Tuesday.

The flag flew at half-staff, the parking lot was only partially filled and very little chatter could be heard. Most students left early in the morning following an assembly to announce the death of a student.

Nick Sessions, a junior, was injured in an automobile accident Monday afternoon and died early Tuesday morning in Birmingham. Dr. Linda Felton decided to keep school in session, but was flexible around the students' emotions.

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"It never crossed my mind to cancel school," Felton said. "I knew all along school would be in session.

"However, we have allowed students to check out if they need to, because we understand people need time to grieve."

Following the assembly, students were given the option to walk around the school, stay in the gymnasium with groups of friends or find a favorite teacher's room. Counselors were on campus all day to help students deal with the loss.

"I even had principals of other schools call an offer their counselors to us," Felton said. "Pastors have called here also."

"When death comes, people wonder, but no one has to wonder about Nick Sessions.

We know right where he is," said the Rev. Matt Helms, pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church. "If anyone's in heaven, Nick Sessions is there."

Helms said Nick Sessions was a wonderful, Christian young man.

"Nick was a strong Christian," he said. "He lived his faith unashamedly at school and everywhere he went. He was the kind of guy who was at the church every time the doors opened. He was very involved in youth activities and a leader in our youth ministry. All of our kids loved him and he loved his friends and family."

Helms said every time he visualizes Nick, he sees him with a big smile on his face.

"Nick smiled all the time," Helms said. "It was evident that he loved life and he loved where he was. He was enthusiastic about whatever he was doing and he loved a practical joke."

Sessions was an offensive lineman for the Trojan football team. Many students knew him and many more knew him through his mother, Melanie Sessions, a science teacher at the high school.

"That makes it especially tough," Felton said.

Kathy Pugh is one of many parents who have felt the pain of the loss, personally and through her sons, Clint and Tyson.

"Our boys have played ball with Nick for years and I've known him through them," Pugh said. "Nick was the kind of young person that parents are glad for their children to be associated with. He was very dedicated to whatever he was doing. He always did his best, never just enough to get by."

The students found out about the accident Monday afternoon and many gathered at the hospital. Church members who attended Pike Liberal Arts School met in a prayer vigil at the school.

The number of friends, family members and teammates at the hospital was overwhelming.

"There had to be at least 50 people out there," senior David Doty said. "When the helicopter came, about a hundred of us gathered in a semicircle to watch him leave. It helped us to have everyone there."

The Pughs were among those who gathered at Edge Regional Medical Center Monday night out of love for Nick and in support of his family.

"This has been a very difficult time and I wish I could find the words to say what a really great young man Nick was," Pugh said. "He was the kind of person you like to be around. He was a fun person – always jolly and always had something to say. That's what I remember most about Nick. This has been a hard thing to go through. But, now we have to take another step."

Students heard about the accident in different times and manners, but all got to the hospital as soon as they could. Tyson and Clint Pugh, who played with Sessions on the football team, were at baseball practice when they saw the ambulance. When they got home, they found out about the accident and hurried to the hospital.

Blake Wise and Andrew Williams were on a hunting trip together. Wise received a call on his cell phone and went to the hospital.

"I got a call in my truck, but the phone went out," Wise said. "All I knew was someone told me to get to the hospital quick. I didn't even know who was hurt, but I went straight there."

Friends and teammates described Sessions as a friendly, helpful and jovial person.

Tuesday morning, a group of his closest friends went to the wreck site and held a small prayer vigil. They collected things from the site that made them remember Sessions.

One student had a crushed Copenhagen can from the wreck site, a trademark of Sessions' wardrobe.

"He always had that on him," Jacob Fannin said. "It was always in his pocket.

"I also saw a crushed Yoo-hoo bottle on the ground, and I guess it was Nick's. It's sad to say, but it took this to make me realize that he always had a Yoo-hoo bottle with him."

Other friends took home pieces of the truck or other things they found at the site.

Will Drinkard made a pair of crosses in Sessions' honor. Members of the football team, classmates and fellow church members signed the larger one. Drinkard was not certain if he would give the cross to Sessions' mother or put it at the gravesite.

"I want to be able to see it, but I don't want to see it with all the names worn off by the weather," Drinkard said.

The smaller cross will be placed by the road where the accident occurred.

"When tragedy happens and a life is lost, there are questions – questions without answers.

There are no answers right now to the questions we might have. We must trust in God to sustain us. And, we must realize that we haven't lost Nick. We know right where he is. He's in heaven and he's with God."

Members of Macedonia Baptist Church planned to gather at the church Tuesday night to share the good memories they all have of Nick Sessions.

Helms said the Wednesday night prayer meeting will also be centered around Nick, his family and friends and the need to trust in God in times of grief.

Sessions was injured Monday afternoon on Needmore road. He was driving his 1989 Ford to his family's farm when he apparently lost control.

State trooper Tracy Nelson said the cause of the crash is still under investigation.