Rockingham County family strives to make a difference in the community after losing son in car crash

Published: Nov. 26, 2021 at 9:34 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 27, 2021 at 12:17 AM EST
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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - Broadway High School student Jesse Haviland was involved in the Bergton 4-H Club, FFA, and was pursuing a certificate in welding from Massanutten Technical Center (MTC).

“He was a normal, teenage, fun loving boy,” said Jesse’s dad Jeremy.

“We’ve yet to find a negative comment about Jesse,” Jesse’s mom Jennifer said.

Jesse’s welding certification test would have been just a day shy of his crash.

“We got a Facebook call from a friend that they had got word that Jesse had been in an accident,” Jennifer said.

Jesse had hit a tree just a few miles from his house.

“I think it is one of every parent’s worst nightmares,” Jennifer said.

Nov. 29 marks one year since Jesse’s death. Over the last year, his family has been working to make sure a tragedy like Jesse’s doesn’t happen to another family.

“This was our first Thanksgiving without him and of course, we celebrated all the Christmases and birthdays. Last year was the first, but everything was like a blur because everything was so fresh because of the time of the accident,” Jennifer said.

At homecoming this fall, the family decided to have the truck Jesse was driving that night in the Broadway High School homecoming parade.

“We knew if we could save, by people seeing the truck, if that could save a life.... because nobody should have to bury their child,” Jennifer said.

“It’s the one instance where it may pop in their memory when they’re running 80, 90 miles an hour and decided to let off of it and save their life,” Jeremy said.

The truck was also placed in front of the high school the day before the parade.

“I am just impressed and grateful for how they want to use Jesse’s death to help other students and families not have to experience what they’ve had to go through. I cannot imagine how difficult that is as a parent,” BHS Principal Donna Abernathy said.

Abernathy said having the truck outside of the high school was impactful for students.

“We had multiple kids ask to go out and just can they just go out and sit at the truck, can they go out and just stand there, and really I just think it was another step of healing for our students,” Abernathy said. “It was a step further for our students to come together and heal together while they were at school as well because we didn’t really get that opportunity back in the fall because we were all virtual.”

In the future, the Haviland family looks to have a memorial sign reminding drivers to be safe in the vicinity of where the crash happened in Bergton.

The family has also set up a scholarship in Jesse’s honor for one student studying welding at MTC and one senior FFA student who exemplifies the qualities Jesse used to say about himself: “trustworthy, honest, and respectful.”

Jennifer and Jeremy said they want to have Jesse’s memory live on.

“You don’t want his memory to die, and I think by people continuing to tell the funny stories and not be afraid to say his name around us. I’m very grateful that people have shared stories,” Jennifer said.

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