This is for those who knew Katie and Megan but can be for anyone who has lost someone close to you. My hope is that it can be an encouragment to you.
For all those who loved Katie Findley and Megan Jones, we all have our stories about where we were and what we were doing in life the day we got the news that they had been killed in a car accident on February 17, 1996. We can all relate. We can all relate with how it made us feel, how painful it was, about the shock of it all, so many stories. We could sit and talk about it for days. It’s the unique and special bond with friends you receive when you go through an experience like this together, especially at such a young age. This is my story.
During my senior year of highschool, I was really in a desperate and dark place. Really I had been for years. Living a destructive lifestyle was simply leading me to the end of my rope. I remember the date because it was such a big moment in my life, October 17, 1994. I was actually at Katie’s house talking to one of my best friends, Andy White, and telling him how miserable I was, asking questions about God, and asking the question, “Aren’t you sick of this life?” An interesting conversation to have for two guys in highschool. Guys don’t open up much, but he was cool about it and was really encouraging to me. I had actually brought up this same conversation to a few people in the previous weeks. One was Megan. I remember her telling me that she prays every day and with a serious and an emotional look on her face she said, “I HAVE to have God.” I saw the desperateness in her face and it was definitely sincere. I also had these conversations with Katie. She and I had grown up going to church together and during our senior year we shared a locker together and had about 4 classes together, so we spent a lot of time together. When I would bring up God, she was always so encouraging about it and didn’t think it was weird and I distinctly remember thinking that she made it easy to talk about because this wasn’t something “cool” you talked about in highschool.
After my conversation with Andy at Katie’s house, I actually left Katie’s house and went home early. I said goodnight to my parents (who were probably wondering why I was home early), went to my room and started to weep. For a “tough” hearted guy like me this was unusual. I remember being on my knees and it came to me to start crying out to God. Asking Him to take over my life. I cried for hours, but I woke up in the morning with a new hope. I literally felt different and started the process of change. Of course, I didn’t know where to start or what I was doing. The only God I knew of was the God I met at a Christian sports camp I went to growing up. I loved how I felt at that place and that is the God I cried out to. I didn’t enjoy or get much of anything from church. It is kind of funny, but my idea of going to church in highschool was pretending to go and I would meet up with Katie in the church parking lot and then pretend like we actually went. Katie’s mom Susan tells me that Katie would bring home the church brochures but Susan wasn’t always buying it! Katie did take it more seriously than me. In my yearbook, Katie actually wrote, “You better go to church!” At first I thought it was a joke about skipping church but you could tell she meant it.
That senior year was about me finding God, and it was an amazing time in my life but it was sure rocky. I was so new to it all and for a young kid with my background, it wasn’t an easy transition by any means. At times I would feel myself slipping and feel lost and hopeless, and during my first year of college I found myself feeling desperate again. A few days before February 17, 1996, I was in a field (about a block away from Megan and Katie’s house) in my neighborhood again crying out to God. I was feeling like I was about to drop this whole God thing and that is why I was there. I remember some of my friends were pretty worried about me. I sat there for an hour or two and then started to feel peace because I felt like God said to me, “Something is about to happen and it’s big and you need to trust me.” Surprisingly that was enough for me and I felt hope again; for now. I told my friends who were worried that I was going to be ok.
February 17, 1996, it was around 3:00am. Greg Ewing and I were living in Dallas at the time. We were just driving around (back then we always stayed up late on the weekends). We were at Royal and Arborside and Chris Norris (he and Megan dated all through highschool) pulled up next to us. He didn’t look panicked but he definitely looked concerned. He asked if we had seen Megan. We hadn’t and Greg and I drove home to Greg’s house to spend the night there. At Greg’s house before we went to sleep we heard these sirens. It was like one after another and they would drive by Greg’s house on Fair Oaks. I’ll never forget it. I made the sarcastic comment, “man I feel sorry for those people.” After that we went to sleep. A few hours later the bedroom door opens and Greg’s mom rushes in and in a frantic and sorrowful voice said, “Greg, Katie was killed last night in a car accident.” I immediately sat up in bed in just a state of shock. Did I just hear those words? I remember Greg being confused because he had just hung out with Katie a few days before and he thought she was in Austin. She then told us that Megan was in the hospital but she didn’t know how she was doing. I couldn’t believe this was happening. Just total shock. Katie Findley! My first thought was, I couldn’t believe I was never going to see her again. We were in disbelief until we looked out the window of Greg’s house and that’s when this all became reality. You see, Greg lived a few houses down from Katie and Megan. We could see cars already lined up at Katie’s house. Wow this is real. We rushed to the hospital to visit Megan. For some reason, we thought she was going to live and wanted to make sure she was okay, but mainly to comfort her because she had just lost her best friend. I remember thinking how difficult this was going to be for her! To this day, I have reoccurring dreams that Megan is still ok and we are comforting her because Katie had died. We got to the hospital and I will never forget it. We get off the elevator and Ty Jones (Megan’s little brother) is right there and I remember saying, “How is Megan?” With tears in his eyes and his voice cracking he said, “My sister just passed away 5 min. ago.” I remember not saying a word to Ty and just walked away putting my head against the wall and looking at Greg and seeing shock on his face. I could hear Megan’s sweet sister weeping in a side room. It is so painful just to recall all this. Is this really happening? I also remember seeing Kathy (Megan’s mom), comforting people! Of course I can totally see that now because I have come to know her in a special way, but that shocked me. We just cried and she hugged us and with that sweet voice told us it was going to be okay.
Just shocked and dazed we left to go to Katie’s house. Cars were lined up. Friends were gathering. We go in and you could hear Katie’s mom sobbing in the back room. You could hear others crying. Everyone just standing there in shock. It was the saddest scene I have ever experienced. The news crew even showed up and started asking questions to friends. This is Greg and I in the news clip from that morning.
That night I remember being at our friend Adri’s house after that first long day with about 50 high school friends and we watched that news clip together that we were in and you could just hear people crying. The reality of it all, seeing it on TV just hit us even harder. For the next few days all of Katie and Megan’s friends really just gathered, weeping together and comforting each other. It was bittersweet because it created a bond between us. I know it did with Greg because we were side by side through all of it.
Megan’s funeral came and man that was so hard. Hard to even talk about. It was so sad. So heartbreaking. So devastating seeing the families and her friends hurt so badly. The place was packed. You knew how big of a deal this was that two great young people had just died by the size of the audience. I remember Megan’s family speaking. It was so hard to watch. I remember Shannon Brooks and Lacy Lemmon get up and talking about the girl who meant so much to them. I’ll never forget Shannon saying that they died on Shannon’s birthday and thinking how hard it would be every birthday she had. The whole thing was so emotionally draining.
Next was Katie’s funeral at the same church that Katie and I had grown up going to and where we went so many times together which made it so much harder on me. Such a weird feeling to be sitting at the funeral of where you and your friend had hung out so many times. I remember in the middle of the funereal service my heart just died. Meaning my spiritual heart. I was one of the pallbearers and followed Katie’s casket up the aisle. While following her, I started to weep because I was just so overwhelmed and remember Greg putting his arm around me to comfort me. Here is a pic of Greg and me carrying her casket.
After the funerals came the hardest part for me. Everyone had come into town and was comforting each other. Well, I ended up at Richland College that semester and was now almost completely alone, which made it so difficult. Most of my friends who I got so much comfort from had left. To top it off, a guy who we ran around with in high school and a great friend to many of my close buddies committed suicide a month later and I had to go through that whole deal. Then I lost my great grandmother who I was very close to. The next year was just a year of grieving, confusion, and depression. This actually lasted for 3 years. Although I would occasionally be in an okay place, the only way I can explain it, is that I was in a dark place. I think since I had tried to follow God and made a big deal about it, I felt ashamed that I had fallen away, so I would just hide any destructive thing I was doing to cope, which was a dangerous place to be in. Would I even get out of this darkness?
I remember a couple of days before February 17th, 1998. Emotions run raw during this time because you know the anniversary of Katie and Megan is coming. It’s always on your mind but especially near the date. It was after a concert. I was in the passenger seat and we were going down church road past the highschool and nearing Skillman. Till this day 20 years later when I get to that intersection, I always think to myself, this is where Katie and Megan made their final turn before the accident (their accident happened on Skillman and Fair Oaks crossing). I was thinking that thought, thinking of Katie and Megan, when I saw a pickup truck headed straight towards me on the passenger side running the red light. It’s hard to believe in such a flash of a moment, but I remember thinking I am about to die right next to the site where Katie and Megan died and on their anniversary! I braced for impact and bam! A drunk driver had run a red light, hitting the front part of the car and totally spun us around, so much so that we had done more than a 180. Our car was almost pointing to the site of Katie and Megan’s crash, and in that moment I remember feeling like God said, “see, your life could have been taken.” I took that to mean God was saying to me, “I got you, but I want you to come back to me.” Of course not many people ended up hearing about this incident because we lived, but I couldn’t believe that I had almost died on that date near Katie and Megan’s crash site. I didn’t think for a second that this was just a coincidence. To say the least it was a wake up call.
Later that year, I started hanging out with a friend of mine, Mark Zeigler. He had a huge heart for me and was always reaching out to me. I would share my grief with him and my longing to get back to God. He kept inviting me to these peoples’ house (Joe and Kim Galindo) where they were hosting young people every Friday night. I didn’t know what it was but I gathered they were kind of like a church or bible study, or something like that. I refused to go for months. He was praying for me of course and he just was persistent. I didn’t want to go because my heart was still dead and frankly I was ashamed of being around God at this point for rejecting Him completely. But finally in May of 1999, I decided to go. I honestly wasn’t expecting anything to happen in me until I walked up to the door and started to feel something peaceful come over me. I walk in and there were what seemed like dozens of young people praying and worshiping God. When I tell this next part I usually cannot say it publicly without crying. Now I didn’t hear an audible voice, but this is the closest thing that has ever come close to that. It was clear as could be. Jesus said to me, “You are home, and you do not have to struggle anymore.” I spent the next 3-4 hours just on my knees weeping and a flood of hope and peace just flowing over me. All that pain, the grief, all the depression, all the shame and emptiness literally lifting off of me. I knew I was never going to be the same and I never have been since that night. I did a complete 180 and completely changed my life around. I was at that house probably 2-3 times a week for the next year! Mark and I are best friends to this day. The Galindos obviously greatly impacted my life forever, and this is also where I started my relationship with my wife Melissa as well. She undoubtedly played a very significant role with me staying on course. Growing together in God during this time in our lives was so incredibly special and would go on to define our marriage. What made it even more special was that I invited Kathy Jones to the group and she came and fell in love with it. Kathy and I became incredibly close. We literally were together 2-3 times a week at the Galindo’s and almost in daily contact. We simply just started to heal together. She actually became the spiritual mama of the entire group! It’s so special and sweet to think that she gained so many spiritual sons and daughters. To say the least, having her with me to heal together is one of the most special things that has ever happened to me. Here is a picture of Mark, the Galindos, Kathy, and my wife and I during that time.
As time went on I started a non-profit ministry. My heart was simple. To reach anyone I could and go anywhere necessary to reach them. My heart simply turned into a heart of love. For people who never knew me in highschool, this may not seem like a big stretch, but for people who did know me, it was a miracle! In Michael Miller’s words (he is a pastor now and we went to LH together), “I believe there is a God because of what God did with Kyle Jenkins.” I truly believe if I can change, then anyone can.
Here is why it was so on my heart to share my story. I wanted to write this letter especially to my friends who I went to highschool with, who knew Katie and Megan and who were impacted by their life. You see, I have always asked “why?” as probably many of you have. Why did they die? Of course I am not going to attempt to answer it fully, which would be impossible to do. I am not going to say that God allowed it to happen or that He made it happen. This will always be a mystery. But I do know this. If they wouldn’t have died, I don’t know where I would be right now. I honestly believe I wouldn’t be following God. My heart wasn’t deep enough. My view of reality was not strong enough. My sense of the eternal was simply not there. This event completely molded me into who I have become. My sense of passion for peoples’ eternal lives comes from my experience with the death of Katie and Megan. It drives me. I can’t tell you how many times I have just needed a little eternal perspective and I would go up to their gravesites and get that perspective.
I started to view Katie and Megan, not for who they were in this life, but for who they have become now in Heaven. That might sound silly to some or even a bit crazy, but my spirit tells me they are in Heaven and they have an eternal perspective. You can say that I have even gotten to re-know them in a sense. They are not the same people. To me they are in Heaven, with heavenly bodies with an eternal perspective wanting and longing for us to “get it,” as Katie’s mom would say to me. Susan and I have also become great friends and she has so greatly impacted my life. We would get together often, share memories, cry, and talk about Heaven. She would always say we just need to “get it.” To “get” that this life is about us finding and knowing God and being in Heaven forever. I truly believe this is what Katie and Megan want from us now. I have had countless dreams about them in Heaven. They are the same but they are very different. They are still the same fun girls, but so much more than that. They are at such peace. They love being there! They see us and are cheering us to know God. They long for us to experience what they are now experiencing. Even before they died, their souls were starting to be directed towards Heaven. Kathy would say, “their little souls knew.” The weekend before Megan died, she was having dinner with her mom. Megan over the past few months had been expressing concern that she was going to die soon. At dinner Megan said, “Mom, will you tell me about Heaven again?” And after Katie died, Susan found a letter that Katie had written to her new friends in Portugal. It was kind of a funny letter but it was almost like a will. Katie wrote, “I have gathered presents for all of you to have to remember me by.” In one part Katie wrote, “I leave you with a Bible in hopes of when I see you next you are a Christian.”
The question of why? God gave me a sense that he molded me into who I am now from this event, and it was for a bigger purpose, but what was the purpose? Was it worth the girls dying? How could I even justify this in my mind that it would be worth it? Then on one of the anniversary days on the 17th of February 2009, our team had an outreach in the brothels that day (we did outreach to women stuck in the sex industry), but of course Katie and Megan were on my heart. On the way to our outreach, I took my team to kind of introduce them to Megan and Katie. So we went to the gravesite. I told them the story and it was a pretty emotional time. My heart was heavy but I was so glad we went. It was a special moment to introduce my team to them. From the gravesite, we went to Harry Hines from NWY and straight to a brothel where young girls are stuck and even forced into the sex industry. We get to the brothel and our team of girls went in while I stayed in the car. Keep in mind that these places are very hard to get in to! We even went to these places for a year and had gone dozens of times without success, meaning you get the door slammed in your face. We of course try to help women but we also tell them about God, and we had never had anyone really just give their life to God in this situation. But this day our team got in and were in there for a long time. And I will never forget it. They came out with a beautiful story. They had ministered to TWO girls who were weeping and saying they wanted God. They prayed right there to Jesus to take over their lives. Immediately God puts on my mind Katie and Megan, where I just left their gravesite. It was like God was saying, “TWO girls for TWO girls!” I immediately called Katie’s mom and Kathy to tell them what had happened and it was a very special moment.
To me it comes down to one verse in the Bible. Romans 8:28 “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Again, I am not going to attempt to explain why things happen. All I can do is share my story. I now have a relationship with God because of Katie and Megan. I know without a doubt that Susan and Kathy have a special relationship with God that they didn’t have before. Those two women are the greatest encouragement to me and I would encourage any one of you to go visit them. You will be filled with encouragement and hope. For myself, I see countless people impacted from an eternal perspective through my life. It is nothing about me; I just show up. But I believe and tell Susan and Kathy this every year, that some day we will understand it all and there will be countless and I believe thousands of people in Heaven because of the impact and trickle effect we will all have on people lives, all because of what happened on February 17, 1996.
There is nothing I am more passionate about than encouraging the friends I grew up with to just know God. I know without a doubt that God used Katie and Megan for all of us. No matter what direction in life we have turned, that event on February 17th changed us all and shaped us. And the shaping and changing is never too late. Whether 3 years later, as it was for me, or 20 years later for you. I see it happening with many of my highschool friends, which was especially apparent at our highschool reunion, which gives me no greater joy. My heart in writing this is simply to encourage you to seek God and the purpose He has for you.
I honestly love you all and we will always be connected in a unique way because of Katie and Megan. I ask you to simply seek God through my story. I would love to connect with any of you who would want to talk. Nothing would be better! Thank you all.