It must have felt like hell for the Hornell community.
It has been exactly one month since the tragic death of Hornell football player Dillen McCormick, a loss that devastated a town, a football family and all of Section 5. The passing was a total shock and under circumstances that are as tough as can possibly be for a family to deal with.
But Dillen's family has been able to survive the crushing loss of a son, and a brother, in do so in many ways because of the love and support shown by the football program and fans from all throughout Section 5.
News of Dillen's death quickly spread as a thread was started on Section 5 Talksback, just hours after the news broke in the town of Hornell. Athletes and fans from everywhere from Bath to Oakfield-Alabama to Geneva and all over one of New York State's largest sections delivered classy, touching and supportive messages. McCormick's passing made an impact on people that were related to him, were friends with him and had never met him.
If you had never met the young man, you very well have heard enough about him by now to feel like you did. One message sent to me personally by one of Dillen's good friends described him as a weight lifter, a class clown, a daredevil, athletic, funny and a kid that loved his family and his friends more than anything else.
Whatever the reasons for Dillen's tragic death, it could never take away from the person that he was and the amount of people he touched in his life can never be in doubt. The evidence is in the Talksback thread, and when you look at the 279 members that are members of a Facebook group set up in his honor.
Or just pay attention on I-390 when you drive past Hornell, where you will see a rock decorated for Dillen.
The football team rallied around Dillen as well, with the Section 5 Class B semifinal game against Geneva played the weekend after his passing. Legendary coach Gene Mastin asked his players if they wanted to forfeit the game or play, and Dillen's friends took the field in honor of their fallen friend. The Red Raiders lost the game, 21-12, but the result was more than could be expected as football was probably the furthest thing from those kid's minds.
Those closest to Dillen, his family, have been through a lot but are doing okay as well. Darrin and Carol - Dillen's parents - are back to work, doing well and have presumably had the pain of a son's death eased by the kids that are showing support. In the message I mentioned earlier, Mr. and Mrs. McCormick are described as "the most kind, loving, welcoming people you could ever meet." In this hard time, they have opened their home to many of Dillen's friends, giving them as much support as they are receiving in return.
Anybody with a brother or sister could only imagine what Dillen's brother Pat has had to go through. He was pulled out of a football practice and informed of his brother's death. The two were very close. But he is back to school and playing on the Hornell jayvee basketball team this winter. Pat has seen some great relationships develop with friends of his older brother, which has hopefully helped him through this difficult time.
It is always tough when a high school kid loses his life and it is easy to look at the negatives of a devastating loss. But in just a month, there are a lot of positives to come out of a big negative. Dillen may be gone, but he has united a town, a football community and all of Section 5.