News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Summer support for grief

The first Friday of summer, on the surface, seemed standard for Sisters. Sun shined, shoppers strolled, tourists toured, and travelers traveled through, their trucks and trailers slowing to a crawl in the Cascade blockade.

For hundreds of locals, though, time stood still. It had stopped two days prior, following a tragic crash on the first day of summer break for students.

The sudden losses of two young lives - a boy and a girl, forever 14 - cast a pall over their families, friends, friends' families, friends of those families, on and on.

The news and sorrow spread wider and weighed heavier nearer to the teens' inner circle. Parents, seeing and feeling the impact on their sons and daughters, sought solace for all. Unable to stop the sadness, try as they might, they offered and secured support. Community churches and families opened their doors and their arms.

Photo by Matt Van Slyke

Support for the Outlaw family has been the focus in the community this week as Sisters comes to terms with a tragic event.

Grieving school leaders called in resources for students while consoling faculty and staff. Amid moving day for Sisters Elementary School, they learned that a district employee's daughter had died in Wednesday's crash. Coworkers volunteered to transport their colleague's things from the now-former location on Cascade Avenue and set them up in their new home, 15100 McKenzie Hwy.

Sisters School District #6 and the Tri-County School Response Team on Friday brought grief counselors and set up safe spaces at the high school for students to process with their peers.

Down the street, at The Hangar, Sisters Young Life hosted Community Support Time for students. They gathered, embraced one another and shared stories about the close friends who passed away so unexpectedly.

A projector at The Hangar displayed a photograph of the Honor Roll students, who had just finished freshman year. Below, dozens more photos taped to a whiteboard, alongside handwritten notes:








People came and went, hugging, crying, sharing stories. Snacks were served: his favorite, Red Bull, and hers, Junior Mints; she loved them most when they were frozen.

Togetherness helped. People gathered in groups – some around conversations, others around activities. Foosball became a healthy distraction. Central Oregon Public Safety Chaplaincy brought with them Allie, a loving therapy dog.

A Spotify playlist, "Christian music that doesn't sound like 2008 k-love," echoed through the halls. Track 3 was Sparrows And Lillies by Pat Barrett:

"Brother, lay your head down.

Sister, don't you know?

Ain't no rest in worry.

Troubles come, troubles go.

I have seen the sparrow.

I have watched it fly.

Though she does not worry

Tell me why should I?

So, hold on love.

Things are gonna get better.

Things are gonna get better.

I know it's hard.

Hold on love.

Things are gonna get better.

Things are gonna get better."

A simple sentiment, difficult to grasp in a fog of distress.

"Whatever you are experiencing, we want you to know that you are not alone even though school is out for the summer," the district wrote in a message sent Friday to school families.

SSD6 says Care Solace, a free, confidential service connecting students, staff, and their families to mental health care, is available anytime at 888-515-0595 and

Mental health partners at the Mosaic School Based Health Clinic, adjacent to Sisters High, will also support students all summer, said SHS Principal Steve Stancliff.

"They are here to support our Outlaw family."


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