PARSHALL There will be 19 students graduating from Parshall High School on Sunday, but there should have been 20.
Lane Jeanotte, who would have been a member of the class of 2011, died in a car accident on Sept. 5, 2001, two days short of his ninth birthday. This Sunday his classmates will honor him by placing his photo on an empty chair on the stage. The chair will be draped with a Pendleton blanket and a cap, gown and stole. Parshall's high school graduation will be held at 4 p.m. Sunday in the school.
"We are so honored," said Lane's mother, Mary Coffey. "I can't believe after all this time those little ones were still thinking about him and remembering him."
Lane Jeanotte, pictured here, would have graduated from Parshall High School on Sunday if he had lived. His classmates will honor Lane, who was killed in a car accident two days before his ninth birthday on Sept. 5, 2001, during Sunday’s graduation ceremony.
The loss of their classmate deeply affected the students, who proposed that Lane somehow be included in their graduation. For most of them, Lane's was the first funeral they ever went to. Principal Mark Grueneich said previous classes have also had an empty chair and a photo of the deceased student at graduation when a classmate has died.
The accident happened five miles east of New Town when the car Lane was riding in was struck by a driver who ran a stop sign. Lane was killed and his parents and older sister were injured.
Coffey was in a coma for six weeks following the accident and wasn't able to attend her son's funeral. When Lane's father, Terry Jeanotte, finally told her on Oct. 16, 2001, that "Lane didn't make it," it was surreal.
"Whenever I hear '9/11' I don't think about the World Trade Center and Bin Ladin," said Coffey. "I had no connection at all to it. I think that was the day Lane was buried."
For Coffey and Terry Jeanotte, Sunday's graduation will be a bittersweet day, filled with memories of Lane, whom Terry Jeanotte thinks would have grown up to be a tall, strong man since he was so big for his age. But even though he was the biggest, strongest kid in his class, he was never a bully. He looked out for other people.
When Lane was a little boy, Terry Jeanotte had a disabled friend who made a habit of eating at a local cafe. Whenever Lane saw the man go by, he used to hop on his bike and race to the restaurant just so he could open the door for his friend.
"Lane was a gift," said Terry Jeanotte. "We were lucky to have him. He was kind and big-hearted and loving. He was learning the traditional ways. He was on the right path."
Terry Jeanotte is grateful that Lane's classmates have never forgotten Lane. He wishes he could give Lane's classmates more to express his thankfulness. Jeanotte said he lost a classmate himself when he was a child and Jeanotte has never forgotten that child either.
"(Lane) touched a lot of people in the short time he was here," said Jeanotte.