Joel Evans, 7, and his mom, Sabrina Evans, beam at their home.
David S. Holloway/CNN
(CNN) — The afternoon of December 3, Sabrina Evans dressed her boys in their new checkerboard Christmas shirts and readied herself for a night out. For the kids, 5-year-old Chase and 7-year-old Joel, there would be a photo with Santa at the capital in Athens, Georgia. For the absolute family, an Italian banquet at Carrabba’s.
Sabrina and her husband, Tyler, were adulatory their 14th bells anniversary. Every year aback their sons were born, they’d taken the boys forth for their commemoration banquet at Tyler’s admired restaurant.
The four accumulated into their old Cadillac CTS about 4:30 that afternoon. They chock-full at Tyler’s parents’ abode to attending online for the best places to atom Christmas lights. They didn’t accept their own computer yet; afterwards active with Tyler’s parents, Joe and Betty Evans, for added than a decade, the brace had confused into their aboriginal new home aloof a few months earlier.
It was new activity for the Evans family, with all their admired traditions: the commemoration dinner, the ceremony lights, a appointment with Santa.
On his way out, Tyler placed his duke agilely on his mother’s hip and gave her a kiss on the cheek. “I adulation you, Mom,” he told her. “I’ll see you soon.”
But that was the aftermost time he would see her. About 6:10 p.m., afore dinner, afore Santa, the ancestors was in a car blow that larboard 37-year-old Christopher Tyler Evans dead. Aback then, the association area the ancestors lives in Newton County, Georgia, has stepped up to accommodate Sabrina and the accouchement with food, ability and moral abutment to advice them accomplish it through not abandoned their aboriginal Christmas in their new home afterwards their father, but additionally the boys’ aboriginal birthdays afterwards him this month.
There is no replacing a husband, no replacing a father. But this Christmas, the Evans ancestors is alike with abutment it had never afore accepted was there. Hundreds of bodies showed up for Tyler’s burial on December 7, abounding of whom Sabrina Evans, 35, and her ancestors had never met.
“When a ancestors adventures a tragedy like this one, it touches the accomplished association and makes them appetite to cull calm and beleaguer them with love,” said Jan McCoy, accessory pastor of the Covington Aboriginal United Methodist Church, who presided over Tyler’s funeral.
Standing with his mother, left, Chase Evans, 5, plugs in an inflatable Santa Claus at their home.
David S. Holloway/CNN
“What helps them added than the actual ability is what’s abaft them, and that’s the adulation and the abutment of the community.”
‘Could’ve happened to anybody’
Sabrina and Tyler Evans had fabricated it through affluence of ups and downs. The brace met in 1992 during aerial academy in Slidell, Louisiana, area Sabrina was built-in and raised, and area Tyler had lived aback he was 2. He was a aerial academy amateur who excelled in soccer and baseball, pastimes he would afterwards allotment with his sons.
They were alien through alternate accompany aback she was 15 and he was 17, and grew aing afterwards Sabrina had abate surgery. Her ancestor had died aback she was 9 and her mother formed continued hours to abutment four children. Best nights, Sabrina was larboard at home to alleviate abandoned — except for Tyler. Aback he didn’t accept to work, he cared for her as she recovered, Sabrina said in an account in her Covington home aftermost week.
“He was aloof nice and affectionate and we got forth well,” she said. “When you alive with addition for so abounding years you aloof get acclimated to ceremony other. We’d been calm for 20 years, which seems attenuate these days, abnormally amid the bodies I grew up with.”
After Tyler accelerating from aerial academy he formed a cord of restaurant jobs in about every position, from basic baker to manager. The brace affiliated in 1998 in Louisiana in a Catholic commemoration at the bidding of Sabrina’s grandmother, but abandoned afterwards demography a chic to acquire the church’s absolution afterwards active calm bachelor for several years. An anthology of bells photos shows the dark-haired helpmate dancing in the accoutrements of a blond, accomplished benedict a few inches shorter. She flips through the pages anecdotic guests, abounding of whom accept anesthetized away, like her husband, far too young.
They confused to Newborn, Georgia, in 2001 to be afterpiece to his ancestors while Tyler healed from a aback injury. They opened a restaurant in 2008, Tyler’s dream job, but were affected to aing afterwards two years because of the bread-and-er downturn. Otherwise, he struggled to authority bottomward jobs for continued periods because of his aback injury, his wife and mother said, abrogation the ancestors to alive mostly on Sabrina’s balance from Kmart and later, Dollar General, area she currently works. Still, they took bank vacations to Florida and South Carolina whenever possible, alike afterwards Sabrina gave bearing to their “miracle babies” — Joel in December 2004 and Chase two years later, in December 2006, afterward three miscarriages.
“He lived for his boys. Everything he did, he did for them,” Sabrina said. “He admired them added than annihilation on this earth.”
He enjoyed actuality a ancestor and administration his passions with his sons, from baseball and fishing to sitting with them on the couch, watching wrestling, she said. The absolute ancestors trekked to Atlanta for WrestleMania 2011; Chase, who was 3 at the time, fell comatose in his mother’s arms. One of the boys’ aftermost outings with their ancestor was to Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves, for Chipper Jones’ aftermost game.
With their fair beard and big dejected eyes, both resemble their ancestor as a child, grandmother Betty Evans says. But the earlier son, Joel, additionally shares Tyler’s approachable spirit and acutely abiding ample smile.
“When I attending at him, all I see is his father,” she says.
The ancestors backward with Tyler’s parents until July, aback they assuredly bought their aboriginal home in a cul-de-sac in a alien subdivision in Covington. Their abode had a big advanced backyard area Tyler, a aerial academy soccer star, would bang the brawl about with his sons, Sabrina said. White lights adhere from the roof and a larger-than-life inflatable Santa Claus greets visitors at the advanced door, abode of Tyler’s brother, who put up the decorations while he was in boondocks for the funeral.
Sabrina Evans looks through bells photos.
David S. Holloway/CNN
Tyler was unemployed on December 3, authoritative the ancestors airing all the added appropriate at a time aback the ancestors was watching its finances. Still, beatitude over a division of new ancestry absorbed their home. This December would accompany the boys’ aboriginal birthdays in their own home, the couple’s aboriginal bells commemoration there, the family’s aboriginal Christmas there.
According to a badge report, Sabrina Evans bootless to crop while authoritative a larboard about-face at an intersection. A Jeep hit the commuter ancillary of the vehicle, area Tyler Evans was seated. All Sabrina remembers is her son Joel screaming.
By 8 p.m., Tyler was dead. Account letters articular him as a “Newborn man” because he had yet to change the abode on his driver’s authorization from his parents’ home.
Miraculously, his wife and sons survived with aloof a few bruises, admitting aback then, Sabrina’s accept has started to ache, authoritative it adamantine to do her job stocking account at Dollar General, she said.
When badge came to Sabrina’s bedside to bear account of her husband’s death, she remembers alms up her wrists and allurement if she was activity to jail. They told her no, that it had been a “horrible, abhorrent accident,” she said.
They ordered claret and toxicology tests, accepted in cases of vehicular deaths. The case is still accessible awaiting final analysis results, Lt. Don Eckert of the Athens Badge Department said, but he does not apprehend accuse to be made. Drugs and booze are not believed to be involved, he said.
Christmas lights adorn the abode afresh bought by Sabrina and Tyler Evans.
David S. Holloway/CNN
“Some cases hit home added than others,” he said. “The affairs of this case could’ve happened to anybody.”
Still, the added is apparitional by guilt. She was in the driver’s seat, afterwards all.
“I don’t apperceive if I’ll anytime get over it,” she said, casting her eyes down. “That’ll be my abuse the blow of my life, to alive it, alive that I was abaft the caster aback my bedmate died.”
‘It changes your outlook’
Perhaps it was the alarming achievability of a father’s death, or the apace aing holiday, or the blissful night angry bad — but affliction caked from the bodies of Newton County. Covington, a large, semirural association about 40 afar from Atlanta, is accepted for its arresting square, which has been the accomplishments for films and TV shows through the decades, from “In the Heat of the Night” to “The Vampire Diaries.” Ceremony December it turns into a ceremony wonderland of ablaze lights and garlands that hosts a array of Christmas-related events, from pictures with Santa to ceremony concerts.
Many of its association accept alleged Newton County home their absolute lives, accidental to a tight-knit spirit, said Amber Pittman, chief anchorman for the Covington News.
“Many association of Newton County still anticipate of it as a baby boondocks and aback one of your own is affliction or in need, you give,” Pittman said. “This is your affliction nightmare. … One day you’re branch out to ancestors banquet and to see Santa and the aing day your dad is dead. It’s aloof awfully sad.”
Her advertisement on Tyler’s afterlife led the Covington badge to ability into its “Police Who Care” fund. Alike afore Sabrina had active her husband, the Covington badge showed up at her home with $800 in ability from Walmart: mostly toys, video amateur and annihilation accompanying to Batman, as the boys had requested. The ability were presented to the boys by Santa Claus — the attribute of Christmas spirit they’d absent seeing the night their ancestor died.
Everyone was affected by the joy and acknowledgment approved by the two little boys, who seemed to accept abandoned for a moment about their father’s absence. Their faces lit up as they entered the home to acquisition Santa and about 20 badge officers, in an barter Pittman declared as heartwarming and that was featured on bounded television news. They fabricated abiding to hug and acknowledge all the strangers present, Pittman said. Afterwards in the week, afterwards she’d active her husband, Sabrina Evans chock-full by the newspaper’s appointment to bead off a acknowledge you card.
It’s far from the abandoned affection to ample the family’s home this month. The boys’ agents from Mansfield Elementary Academy chipped in and brought aliment to the home twice. A toy abundance in Athens arrive the boys to accommodated Santa and aces out ability on Chase’s sixth birthday. The towing aggregation that removed the ancestors car aloft money for a toy drive. A drifter bought Sabrina a spa package. Atlanta Braves players Brian McCann and Jason Heyward active jerseys for the boys.
Sabrina, left, and Cindy Hensley, Chase’s kindergarten teacher, watch the boys comedy in the yard.
David S. Holloway/CNN
Others are cerebration above December and into the new year, aback the absolute assignment of starting a new activity afterwards their ancestor begins. That’s aback Joel’s second-grade chic intends to alpha allowance the ancestors out in some way, conceivably with a meal every so generally or a timberline buried in Tyler’s memory.
“When the holidays are over and they get accomplished all the busy-ness of Christmas and the boys’ birthdays, I feel like that’s aback it’s activity to get tough,” said Karen Piper, a constant citizen of Newton County. “That’s aback we’d like to footfall in.”
While the affairs of this tragedy are extreme, the acknowledgment is archetypal for the school, whose adage is “We are a family,” she said. Aback a bus disciplinarian retired aftermost year because of chemotherapy treatment, the agents took up a collection. As anon as agents abstruse about Tyler Evans’ death, they activated a adoration alternation with the family’s permission.
The access of abutment is a bit cutting at times, Sabrina said. The division will acceptable be choleric with anguish for years to come, but the association abutment now helps the ancestors to cope.
“I’m not the blazon to ask, ‘Hey, can you watch my kids?'” said the 35-year-old widow. “I’d rather do afterwards than ask for help. But the way the association has accomplished out, it changes your angle on people.”
The affection helps the association to grieve, too.
“When I anticipate about what we do every day and the tragedy and affliction we see and try to advice bodies through, this is a admirable way to advice us cope,” Covington badge Capt. Ken Malcom said. “When we see so abounding abrogating things, adverse things that appear to families, activity acceptable about article helps us, helps us cope with accepting to accord with so abundant tragedy.”
When a ancestors adventures a tragedy of this magnitude, it touches the accomplished community, said McCoy, the pastor.
“It reminds us that none of us are promised alike the aing bristles account and to accomplish the best and best of what have,” she said. “Make those memories last, because if you put it all off until tomorrow, there ability not be a tomorrow.”
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