Sep 5, 2006

A tribute to lasting friends

by Marcelo Quarantotto, Life! Editor

Tragic events have taken the lives of four Liberty students over the summer. This week, the Champion will focus on the lives of two of these students—Adam Bishop and Aaron Cooper—and what  they have meant to their Liberty family. Bishop died in a car accident and is survived by his parents and two sisters. Cooper died while rafting and is survived by his parents two sisters. These are their stories.

ADAM BISHOP

Colt Freeman, current photography editor for The Liberty Champion, sits behind the office desk with his head touching the back of the chair and his forearms on the armrests. He is in the office where Adam Bishop spent late Sunday evenings working to have everything done a day earlier than the publication requires.

“I guess the best place to start would be the beginning,” he says, remembering his good friend. The two became friends while they were both involved with the Air Force ROTC during their freshman year.

“He was probably the nicest and best friend you could have. His biggest thing was being loyal to his friends. No matter what time it was, no matter what the problem was, he was going to try to help him out and he was definitely very, very good at that,” says Freeman.

Biblical studies major Scott Ahern agrees with Colt’s enthusiasm about Bishop’s humanitarian personality. Ahern and Adam met last August while they were living in the same dorm. Ahern would occasionally carpool with Bishop back to their respective homes during breaks. Last winter break, Adam drove Scott to his house in upstate New York, but he had to leave late and drive through the night because of inclement weather.

Scott’s father was unable to meet them at the usual drop-off in Albany. Ahern says, “So Adam, in his usual giving attitude, simply brought me right to my house. However, we had a little adventure on the way. First, I told him a little shortcut which turned out to be more of a ‘long-cut’. He never complained, though, and one time he turned around and got his jeep stuck deep in a snow bank. So, he went and got a log from a fence post and dug out the tire and we eventually got out.

“When we finally got to my house it turned out that it was locked. Adam went Boy Scout and found the best window to the cellar and crawled in while only slightly breaking the window. The best part is that there was a key outside and I simply forgot where it was,” he laughs.

Freeman also lauds Adam as being an extremely adventurous individual. On one specific occasion, the friends decided to make a trip up Liberty  Mountain to take a 360-degree picture made possible by a software program one of them had recently purchased. Colt had planned on simply driving up to it and walking up the gravel road, but Adam had other plans. He was finding a way to get his Jeep Cherokee all the way to the top.

After about two hours of wheeling around narrow back roads, they noticed that  the clock displayed a time somewhere around 11 p.m., and they decided that they should probably head back down and try again some other time.

“About an hour into [going back down],” says Colt, “we got stuck trying to get up this hill. We worked on getting the Jeep unstuck for about 45 minutes, finally got it free, and drove about another five feet before getting stuck again.” This time, it was worse. There was a root that traversed the path that was hindering their movement.

They worked for about another 45 minutes and decided to call friends for help. They got in touch with someone who owned a Bronco—a vehicle more than capable of reaching them and pulling them out of their jam.

“But there was no way we were going to be able to take them to where we were because there are tons of different trails and turns,” Freeman says. “We ran from there all the way to Camp Hideaway—about six or seven miles from where we were.

“Once we found the people with the Bronco, we jumped in and drove back to the Jeep and finally got it out of that spot. Adam was so tired by this point. [Before], I was sitting in the passenger seat watching that right corner. [This time], I was in that front vehicle showing them how to get out and a tree actually caught his front right bumper. Because he was going down a hill, it just stuck on it. He couldn’t get it to back up. It just had no traction.”

They spent about another two hours trying to get the Jeep out of that mess. By this time, it was 4 a.m., so they decided to come back the next day and give it another try. One of the students present during the endeavor was a law student and needed to get something that resembled sleep before a big test he would have the next morning.

“The next day, we rented a chainsaw, went up there, chopped the tree down and then drove out. Interesting, interesting day,” says Colt.

Adam was also well-known for being an unnaturally hard worker. “He probably slept no more than four hours a night last semester. He was up constantly,” says Freeman. “He probably packed in another two years’ worth of time in that last semester.”

On Saturday, May 13, 2006, Adam was working all day on a photo project with Colt and left later on to drive home to Weare, N. H. Instead of leaving on Sunday as he had told his mother, Adam wanted to leave Saturday evening and surprise her with breakfast on Sunday morning—Mother’s Day.

Colt says, “The day he left, he actually forgot his little hard drive that he downloaded all his stuff to. He forgot it and left it at the house, so I called him, and he came back... Before he left, it was the only time we ever gave each other a hug. So that was the last thing we said and did together: ‘I’ll see you in a couple of months.’”

Ahern, again, was receiving another ride home from Adam when tragedy struck.    

According to Scott, the accident occurred near Albany, N.Y. “Right before it happened we were talking about whether or not we thought Jesus would return shortly. He said he thought He would within the next 100 years or so. The next thing I knew, I’m looking up as we are drifting over the median. Somehow we both managed to fall asleep. Then he jerked the wheel back hard right and overcompensated. We spun out of control and began to roll over several times. That was it.”

Ahern was taking to the hospital and treated for minor injuries. Adam was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident.

AARON COOPER

Graduate student Tyler Falwell leans forward in his chair and stairs at the wall. He doesn’t really look at the wall—it’s just the place his eyes happen to fall as he sifts through memories, great memories that he shared with his friend and Liberty student Aaron Kyle Cooper.

 Cooper and Falwell originally knew each other by nothing more than recognition in the classes they had together. “See, we didn’t like each other at first. He had always popped his collar. [I thought], ‘Who does this guy think he is?’ One day I [said], ‘I’m going to talk to him,’ and it was just instant,” Falwell says snapping his fingers.

In their first few conversations, they discovered their common passion for softball and discussed how they were both in the same upcoming tournament.

“We bumped into each other at the tournament, and ever since then were together every day. We hung out a lot…a lot.”

The two friends loved softball to the point where they simultaneously slugged for three different teams as teammates. When they weren’t competing alongside one another, they were trying to better their skills and joked about what their other teammates were doing while they practiced.

Thursday, June 29, 2006, is the day Falwell “will never forget.” He considers it to be the absolute best day of his life. “[Aaron and I] got together and played softball for a couple hours at Peaksview Park…Then we went home and rested for a little while before we went back out for the two games we had that night.”

According to Tyler, Aaron was the best softball player in the Hill City. “Home run everytime. Made every play on the field. I made fun of him, calling him ‘Franchise’ because if he couldn’t play [on a particular evening], then our entire weekend team wouldn’t play.

No matter how focused they were in the games, they still made time to talk to each other. “Whenever he would get a triple or something,” says Tyler, “I’d walk out to third base to talk to him, just so we could spend time together… every possible second I was trying to talk to him.

“What I have been saying a lot recently,” says Tyler, “is yelling B.F.F. in the middle of the [softball] diamond  on Thursday is something I’ll never forget [and] Friday is something I’ll always live with.”

“B.F.F.,” which stands for “best friends forever,” is the title given to them by a girl Tyler used to date. Tyler chuckles with a loving smile across his face and says, “It’s something schoolgirls call each other.”

Tyler and Aaron earned this title because of the amount of time they were together. “It didn’t make much sense at the time, but after everything happened it made good sense why we spent so much time together…You try to fill each day.”

“At one point during the night he began yelling at me across the field and so we started yelling ‘BFF!’ to each other. We even gave each other a big hug on the pitcher’s mound and it was just really bizarre. People started laughing, saying, ‘Look at those two.’…It was a very surreal day and yet it makes perfect sense now…Thursday was by far the greatest day: such a ‘one-eighty’ from such a perfect day to absolute chaos.”

Friday, June 30, 2006, is the day Tyler calls something he “will always live with.” It began with a plan he had to take Aaron rafting down the James River. Afraid that Aaron wouldn’t want to drive too far that day, Tyler coerced him to come by saying it was only a 20 minute drive instead of the actual half-hour to Glasgow, Va.

“When we hit about 25 to 30 minutes, I was thinking that he was going to be mad. All he could talk about was when his mom comes to visit him for graduation, how all he wanted to do was show her those mountains. I told that to his mom when she came down during the rescue... All she would do was sit and stare out into the mountains because that’s where (Aaron) wanted her to be,” says Tyler.

Instead of using inner tubes—the usual crafts people use for a leisurely trip down the river—Falwell bought inflatable life-rafts that seemed a bit more secure with their three air chambers. Aaron and Tyler had one vessel each as they navigated the James River, which had unusually strong water current and was swollen from recent rain.

Tyler cautions, “You need to give everything the respect it deserves, because just like that it is going to change your life. This is by far the hardest thing I’ll ever have to go through, yet all we did was set up a little day just to have some fun and get a suntan…I hope that students can grasp this and not think that it can’t happen to them, because regardless of if you think your life is that perfect life or not, it will all change in a blink and you will be going in a tailspin not knowing what to do.

“I went through a small rapid without any problem,” says Falwell. “I turned around to watch him go through and that’s when I saw his boat flip straight up in the air…All I saw was the bottom of the boat and I never saw him again.”

Given the current, there wasn’t anything Falwell could do but get onto land at first chance. He ran across the nearby railroad tracks as fast as he could and ran towards the place where Aaron’s boat flipped. He yelled to a few kayakers who where close, but they didn’t seem to know what he was talking about. He raced back along the railroad tracks and found a worker to call for help.

The rescue team wasn’t able to recover Aaron’s body until four days later. Falwell says it was an incredibly hard time, but less hard because of Cooper’s family.

“His family is the most unbelievable family that I have ever come across,” Tyler says, “They are incredibly God-fearing and always put others first. It got to the point where they were comforting the rescue workers: putting their arms around them and saying ‘You’re doing everything you can,’ and ‘go eat before we eat—you need the food more than we do.’”

The Coopers’ goodness of heart was apparently a trait that Aaron exhibited as well. Tory Friedrich, a senior communications major, was a friend of Aaron’s. She says, “He was just a really funny, cool guy…I don’t think I ever saw him in a bad mood ever, and that’s why I liked hanging out with him because we would have such a good time. I also admired how he could get along with anybody. The very first time I hung out with him, we played cards and it was like within five minutes, I felt like I had known him forever.”

REFLECTION

A commonality shared by the deaths of these two members of the Liberty University family is that friends of both Adam and Aaron have a new appreciation for their friends and loved ones.

“It definitely reevaluates everything,” says Tyler Falwell. “You never want enemies. You try to hold onto everything you can…I guess, you know, just try to value every single relationship. You don’t want to take anything for granted.”

As she wipes away the tears that roll down her cheeks with her sweater, Friedrich says, “It just makes you appreciate people more and makes you want to spend more time with people, especially your Senior year. You don’t know when you’ll ever see them again.”

“I’ve always been willing to do a lot of things for people, and probably even more so now, just because you never know when you’re not going to have someone the next day…It makes you be a little bit more patient and/or kinder to people because you don’t want the last thing you ever say to that person to be something bad.”

Next week, the Champion will commemorate Dusty Boyce and Samuel Danso.

Contact Marcelo at mquarantotto@liberty.edu.


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