Four teenagers looking at the sunset

Why I’m Thinking of Jack Beasley this Christmas

A group of teen boys and girls are walking along a Surfers Paradise street just after 8pm, on a Friday night.

Within minutes, each of their lives will change irrevocably. So will the lives of the witnesses who rush to help, and the first responders who so often see their own loved ones in those they desperately seek to save.

The police who begin investigations within minutes will remember those first few minutes, with precision, this Christmas. So, too, will the doctors and nurses and staff at the local hospital, when one of the teen boys – Jack Beasley – dies. That doesn’t slow their fight to keep his mate alive.

Panicked phone calls begin within seconds, in a dozen different directions: to parents, who struggle to comprehend what they are being told; young siblings, who can’t understand the chaos unfolding around them; and grandparents, whose pain they know will never end.

Like a heavy stone thrown into a small pond, the grief and disbelief will continue over the days to come, as aunts and uncles and neighbours and cousins and school communities and football teams and so many others learn how their lives will be impacted.

An empty seat at the kitchen table. A young child screaming with nightmares. A court appearance for a 15-year-old. A funeral.

A few minutes of mayhem and Jack Beasley is dead. His mate is recovering from stab wounds. Both their friends saw a life snuffed out, and attended a funeral in a matter of days. Five other youths, with family of their own, are facing murder charges, this Christmas.

A few minutes – and a lifetime of heartache for dozens, perhaps hundreds.

The facts of Jack Beasley’s death will play out in court, and that’s the appropriate place. But perhaps it’s worth us all, this festive season, thinking of the impact of one, single tragedy in our community.

But we all know someone who knows someone who becomes the centre of that whirlpool of heartache. In my case, it was Jack Beasley. But perhaps it was that knock on the door this year; a fresh-faced police officer struggling to keep their emotions in check, as they relayed personal detail of another death on the road.

Or perhaps the person at the centre of your whirlpool of heartache might be the festival lover who decided the pill handed to them by a friend of friend would be okay; surely, they’d know if it was laced with toilet cleaner? Or worse?

It doesn’t have to involve death either. A decision by a student to join others in cheating on an exam. Or turning a blind eye to a friend’s rash judgement to steal a pair of ear-rings.

This Boxing Day, as we stock up on all those things we’ve been saving for, Jack Beasley is my reminder to hold those you love as close as you can.

Photograph of Madonna King

Madonna King is a leading journalist and commentator. An award-winning presenter of 612 ABC Brisbane, she has authored 12 books and now works across radio, television and online.

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