LTE: Remembering Cameron … Grieving for One of Our Own

An Ashburn resident pays tribute to the young girl who befriended her son.

2:40 a.m.—I awoke to the feeling of tears streaming down my face and a heavy heart. A black cloud has settled over Ashburn. In this community 30 miles west of Washington, DC, parents, coaches, teachers and children are mourning the loss of a 14-year-old young woman whose light was snuffed out entirely too soon. Cameron Carter’s death does not fall into the category of “things happen for a reason.” There is no justifiable reason for her passing. Cameron uplifted and touched every person that knew her. Her smile warmed and illuminated every room she entered. Her hugs wrapped around you like your favorite blanket on a frigid night.

For those that wonder why people live “in the middle of nowhere” when they live in Ashburn, the answer for those of us that have built our lives here is so obvious: our children. The children in Ashburn are the heartbeat of this community. They are lifeblood of every square mile. They are the pulse of Ashburn’s veins. Everything that exists in Ashburn, everything that is contemplated—from schools, play arenas, Tae Kwan Do centers and sports fields to shopping centers, health clubs, restaurants and movie theatres—is built with one singular mission in mind: to contribute to the quality of life for its children.

The families that live in Ashburn consider all children “their” children. The friendships and bonds that form between the children here are incredibly strong. There is not a single family in all of Ashburn—whether its Brambleton, Broadlands, Ashburn Village, Ashburn Farm, Belmont, or any other community—that isn’t devastated by the passing of Cameron.

For those of us that were blessed to truly know and love Cameron, the void is indescribable. With many kids, we as parents hold our breaths as we enter the high school years, bracing for a focused, rewarding and challenging time of preparing our children for post-high school life. We worry that they may veer off the right path. We worry about how they will navigate the academic and social pressures of the high school years. With Cameron, those of us that knew her didn’t worry. She just had it all together. She was so grounded. We were looking forward with so much delight to watching her continue to blossom—as a young woman on the athletic fields, in the classroom, in the living rooms of our homes. She embodied every trait parents try to instill in their children: faith, humility, compassion, empathy, inclusiveness, kindness, motivation, a commitment to her community and to helping others.

Cameron was one of Jared’s very best friends—and will continue to be. After returning from the service at Briar Woods High School on Tuesday, Feb. 21, he went to his room and placed the memorial cup with the extinguished flame in between his cherished trophies on his shelf, where he could clearly see it from his bed. Cameron and Jared shared a unique bond because they attended Loudoun Country Day School together for part of elementary school and middle school, and then they both switched for their eighth-grade year to Stone Hill Middle School. This collective transition strengthened their bond and friendship. While they both already had friends at Stone Hill, they relied on each other to adapt to their community. I can remember Cameron hosting a pool party at the beginning of the year with her new friends from Stone Hill. Jared was the only one there that was the bridge between old and new.

The two of them developed a very special friendship, relying on one another for so many aspects of adolescent friendship. They sat together mostly every day at lunch. Each of their daily Twitter feeds were filled with supportive and funny posts from one another. In the last several weeks, Cameron contemplated her high school choices. Jared was so relieved and happy to know she was going to stick with Briar Woods High School. Jared also greatly admires Cameron’s older brother Alex, who is an exceptional athlete and student, and will be attending Stanford University on scholarship in the fall. He looks up to Alex as a role model, as a student who can excel academically, athletically and socially.

Just last week, I visited with Cameron’s parents, Renee and Tom Carter, when I went to pick up Jared late in the afternoon on a brisk Saturday as the sun was setting. We sat in their living room by the fire, joking that the couch in the family room was way too “broken in” from the constant stream of kids to sit in there. Renee and I talked specifically about Jared and Cameron’s friendship, and how special it is, and how she’s always looking out for him … how great it is that they have each other.

I left that afternoon with such a warm feeling in my heart, so grateful that Jared had such substantial friendships and connections with such good kids, from families that share our values. Its times like those and feelings like those that serve as reinforcement—reassurance—that you’re making the right decisions for your kids, and that everything will turn out right.

Parents would walk through fire to protect their kids from hurt or danger. The entire adult community of Ashburn is grieving over Cameron’s death. We are praying with every fiber of our bodies for the Carter family. How do we help our children navigate this? How can we possibly ask them to find peace with this tragedy that should not have happened, when we struggle to find the peace within ourselves?

I ask that all of you pray for the Carter family. Please pray for the children of the Ashburn communities, and the children outside of Ashburn that were a part of Cameron’s life. Please send prayers of peace, love, strength, healing, and understanding for the children, and for the adults too.

We love you Cameron.

May your light continue to shine on us, may your spirit continue to walk with us and may you rest in peace.

~Marissa Levin

[Editor's note: A vigil was held Feb. 21 at Briar Woods High School in honor of Cameron Carter, who passed away Tuesday. Our thoughts are with the family.]

Paula February 23, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Such a beautiful article about a rare treasure of a girl. I am so sorry for Cameron's family and friends, I hardly know what to say except I am praying for them all. And especially, I am praying for dear Jared. I can't imagine his sorrow as well as confusion. This is such a big thing for one so young to bear. May the Lord be with Jared as he struggles to understand something that's unfathomable. God bless the community of Ashburn, and let us continue to watch out for and take care of one another and most of all, our precious children. Cameron is now an angel watching over us all.
Brian Fox February 23, 2012 at 06:32 PM
I feel so fortunate that I was blessed with being given the opportunity to work with Cameron in my classroom. There was a permanently fixed aura about her of acceptance and goodwill. She was a stranger to any countenance other than a gentle smile. Our class has suffered a terrible sense of loss made all the more difficult with her now vacant chair. We will heal however as our grief eventually gives way to gratitude for her gifts to us.
Dusty Smith (Editor) February 23, 2012 at 08:00 PM
The outpouring of comments praising the life of Cameron has been phenomenal. She clearly left quite an impact on our community here in Ashburn. Thanks to everyone for sharing your thoughts and memories.
Marissa February 23, 2012 at 08:20 PM
Thank you Paula. I will share your sentiments with Jared. In my heart, I know he feels her with him. It's important to him to be supportive for the Carter's and also for all of Cameron's friends that are also grieving. Yes, Cameron is the Angel of all angels.
Marissa February 23, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Beautiful note Michael... thank you.
Marissa February 23, 2012 at 08:23 PM
Rachael your note is so beautiful. Continue to lean on your community. I'm sending you love and strength through this.
Marissa February 23, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Thank you Delia. If there is a Spring event coming up, perhaps we can organize Team Cameron to participate. Grateful for all that you did for the Carter family, and will continue to do.
Marissa February 23, 2012 at 08:25 PM
Thank you Monica. I am glad my words are bringing comfort to so many as they process this as a community and individually.
Marissa February 23, 2012 at 08:29 PM
Thank you so very much Mr. Fox. The students at Stone Hill are blessed to have the love and support of the amazing teachers and administration. Mr. Moore, Mr. Chi, and Mrs. Alberth have been just incredible. The support system will most definitely make it easier for all of the kids at Stone Hill to process and come to terms with Cameron's passing, and the void that now exists.
Marissa February 23, 2012 at 08:30 PM
Thank you for running the column Dusty. It is a place where adults and kids can come together and express their love for Cameron as well as prayers for the Carter's.
Sam February 23, 2012 at 09:20 PM
We don't even know you yet, but we so sorry for this unspeakable loss. Please know that the Stanford Football Parents Association will be waiting with open arms to comfort you and welcome you as this year unfolds. But more importantly we know that Alex will have the support of his teammates (our boys) and the coaches/staff in an exceptional manner as we have seen them step up to the plate for each other on so many levels. We are all so sorry for your loss.
Abs February 23, 2012 at 10:01 PM
I don't even know Cameron but from the article and the comments it's very, very sad . My school which is in leesburg is wearing purple and white to represent Cameron and they put pictures around, I actually saw one girl crying because she knew Cameron and it was so sad to watch. I may not know her but when I see her face I feel like have seen this person b4 R.I.P You will be missed a hpms
Marissa February 23, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Dear Sam and the rest of the Stanford Football Parents Association: Thank you... I will share your condolences and comments with the Carter's this weekend.
Kayla Smith February 23, 2012 at 11:16 PM
I miss you so much Cameron!!! You were always a great friend and had a smile on your face everytime I saw. You brightened up everyday at school with your smile. We are praying for the Carter family very much. R.I.P Cameron & <3 u
Ayonda Manocchio February 24, 2012 at 03:50 AM
What a beautiful young lady. My condolence to the Carter family.
Quintina Smith February 24, 2012 at 05:28 AM
I was truly blessed to have her for a student. And though I have known her briefly, I knew her heart. And I continue to get to know it through the poems, letters, and messages of her friends and fellow students. She touched all of our hearts and I am certain her light is still shining over us. Mrs. Levin, thank you for sharing your personal story and giving everyone a place to share their thoughts and love for Cameron.
Chris Robinson February 24, 2012 at 06:22 AM
I was one of the first families to meet the Carter's when they moved to Virginia in 2002. She was 5 years old, and even then, she was a compassionate little girl. I was best friends with Alex, so I was ALWAYS at their house. She grew to be like a little sister to me. I watched her grow older and mature, and seeing this happen really struck a chord in my heart strings. No more complaining about the tiny insignificant things in life, when it's so precious and can be taken at any second. My love goes out to the family-Mr Tom and Mrs.Renee Carter are two fine parents, they could not have raised a finer child. Peyton, I know you are still young, but things will get better, I promise. Alex and Madison, I've already talked to the both of you, and you know I'm always here if you ever need anything. From South Riding With Love Christopher Robinson FHS class of 2012
Kate bland February 24, 2012 at 07:39 AM
God speed to Cameron - truly a gift from god who made an indelible impact on so many during her brief time here on earth. While gone from your line of vision she will live on - her spirit joined with yours. She is the shadow cast by the late day sun, the warm breeze that kisses your cheek on a chilly afternoon. Cameron is the ray of sun that breaks through the dark clouds on the stormiest of days and the crunch of leaves beneath your feet as Fall crosses over into winter. She lives on in your hearts - the lessons about living and loving now your legacy. God speed Cameron - spread your angel wings and soar among the clouds in heaven. Kate Bland
Marissa February 24, 2012 at 12:01 PM
Thank you Kayla. Stay strong, and celebrate the wonderful joy that Cameron brought to you and the Stone Hill community.
Marissa February 24, 2012 at 12:03 PM
Thank you Mrs. Smith. Jared told me about the memory book you are making out of the children's poems and letters. The Carters will cherish that. Thank you for giving the kids the time & space to grieve and express. Thank you for attaching a purpose to their pain. And thank you to the entire Stone Hill staff and administration for all that you have done and will continue to do for our children.
Marissa February 24, 2012 at 12:05 PM
Chris: I am so so sorry for your loss. Your lessons and insights are so accurate. Thank you for for your messages to Alex, Peyton, and Madison. Wishing you strength and peace.
Marissa February 24, 2012 at 12:06 PM
Kate: your message is so beautiful. Thank you for sharing your poetry with our community. We are all comforted by your words which so poignantly describes Cameron's spirit and impact.
Kender Poore February 24, 2012 at 01:50 PM
Cameron, We will miss you so much. I'm sorry i didn't get to write this earlier but i just wanted to tell you that we all love you and think that you are the nicest person anyone could ever meet. You always had nice things to say, a warm and beautiful smile and never said anything bad about anyone. We were really good friends in 6th grade but then lost touch after 7th grade because you went to another school and then came back. I just wanted to thank you for making such an impact on so many people's lives (including mine) and to thank you for being such a beautiful person inside and out. I really miss you, Cam :( Know that we're praying for your family. Love, Kender
Tracey Parent February 26, 2012 at 04:32 AM
Delete Tracey Parent 11:30 pm on Saturday, February 25, 2012 For all of you struggling to understand why Cameron's was called home at such a young age, below is a poem her brother Alex read at her memorial that gave all of us a peaceful understanding of why Cameron was here in the first place;-)    The Brave Little Soul Not too long ago in Heaven there was a little soul who took wonder in observing the world. She especially enjoyed the love she saw there and often expressed this joy with God. One day however the little soul was sad, for on this day she saw suffering in the world. She approached God and sadly asked, “Why do bad things happen; why is there suffering in the world?” God paused for a moment and replied, "Little soul, do not be sad, for the suffering you see, unlocks the love in people’s hearts.” The little soul was confused. “What do you mean,” she asked.” God replied, “Have you not noticed the goodness and love that is the offspring of that suffering? Look at how people come together, drop their differences and show their love and compassion for those who suffer. All their other motivations disappear and they become motivated by love alone.” The little soul began to understand and listened attentively as God continued, “The suffering soul unlocks the love in people’s hearts much like the sun and the rain unlock the flower within the seed. I created everyone with endless love in their heart, but unfortunately most people keep it
Tracey Parent February 26, 2012 at 04:36 AM
                   Updated 2 July             locked up and hardly share it with anyone. They are afraid to let their love shine freely, because they are afraid of being hurt. But a suffering soul unlocks that love. I tell you this - it is the greatest miracle of all. Many souls have bravely chosen to go into the world and suffer - to unlock this love – to create this miracle - for the good of all humanity."  Just then the little soul got a wonderful idea and could hardly contain herself. With her wings fluttering, bouncing up and down, the little soul excitedly replied, "I am brave; let me go! I would like to go into the world and suffer so that I can unlock the goodness and love in people’s hearts! I want to create that miracle!" God smiled and said, "You are a brave soul I know, and thus I will grant your request. But even though you are very brave you will not be able to do this alone. I have known since the beginning of time that you would ask for this and so I have carefully selected many souls to care for you on your journey. Those souls will help you create your miracle; however they will also share in your suffering. Two of these souls are most special and will care for you, help you and suffer along with you, far beyond the others. They have already chosen a name for you. God and the brave little soul shared a smile, and then
Tracey Parent February 26, 2012 at 04:44 AM
embraced.  In parting, God said, “Do not forget little soul that I will be with you always. Although you have agreed to bear the pain, you will do so through my strength. And if the time should come when you feel that you have suffered enough, just say the word, think the thought, and you will be healed.” Thus at that moment the brave little soul was born into the world, and through her suffering and God’s strength, she unlocked the goodness and love in people’s hearts. For so many people dropped their differences and came together to show their love. Priorities became properly aligned. People gave from their hearts. Those that were always too busy found time. Many began new spiritual journeys – some regained lost faith – many came back to God. Parents hugged their children tighter. Friends and family grew closer. Old friends got together and new friendships were made. Distant family reunited, and every family spent more time together. Everyone prayed. Peace and love reigned. Lives changed forever. It was good. The world was a better place. The miracle had happened. God was pleased.  -  J. Alessi
JGraham February 29, 2012 at 02:58 AM
I am telling you all to watch the video about CCarter on youtube. It is truly amazing.
Karen Struzik February 29, 2012 at 02:12 PM
JGraham, can you please provide the youtube link?
Dusty Smith (Editor) February 29, 2012 at 02:42 PM
If you can send me the link, I'll upload it to the story. I was unable to find it. Send to: dusty@patch.com. Thanks.
Michelle Page Alswager March 07, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Dear Marissa, your article has been put into my inbox from several different people on facebook and various diabetes-world communities. My son, Jesse, passed away unexpectedly at age 13 - its been 2 years now. Since then there have been a lot of parents who have lost their children to this hideous disease sort of banding together. Clearly you know the family - the parents - well. I would like to offer my support to them along with the other families out "here" who help each other through this. No one understands the loss and grief they feel better than those of us who have stood (and still stand) in their shoes. If you would like to connect me, Marissa, email me at curejesse@gmail.com (yes, my email remains as such) and we can go from there. You are welcome to google me (Michelle Page-Alswager) or my son, Jesse Alswager. I'd like to help. If I can. I'm so sorry for the loss of your entire community - I know how brutal it is and I still see our community grieving over Jesse. It will be no surprise to me that it will continue throughout the years for Cameron as well. Take care.


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