A teen neighbor of Chesterfield teacher Janet Esrock played in the football game Esrock was returning home from the night of the car crash that ultimately took her life.
The teen is a junior at St. Louis University High School and offensive lineman on the football team, Alec Abeln. He shared his story with his school's Prep News online, shortly after the untimely death of his "second mom."
Esrock, 50, and her son Jonathan Esrock, 16, were critically injured August 27 on Wildhorse Creek Road in Chesterfield, driving home from a Parkway North vs. SLUH football game when a car driven by Patrick McCormick struck their car head-on.
Janet Esrock died two weeks later, never regaining consciousness. Her son is recovering from multiple injuries.
McCormick was charged, and included manslaughter driving drunk and assault. A pre-trial hearing is March 16 in St. Louis County Court.
Here are excerpts from Abeln's story in Prep News, written by Nathan Rubbelke. The awesome piece in its entirety can be found on Prep News.
- (Abeln) had grown up with her, a next-door neighbor for the past 16 years in their Chesterfield neighborhood. Growing up, Esrock was a constant figure in his life.
- “During the summer (she was a teacher, and she would be off), literally every day, we would be over (at her house), and she was offering to give us rides before I could drive or just keeping us entertained and doing stuff for us,” said Abeln.
Esrock loved to watch his football games, and rarely missed one—sitting with his parents. She went to the season opener the night of the wreck, with SLUH losing to Parkway North High School 38-35.
On the drive home with his dad, Abeln sees the crash about a mile from home, on Wildhorse Creek Road. His mother, in a separate car, passes by and worries about who it could be. They find out the serious nature of the injuries from a police officer.
Janet Esrock's husband was home that night, and walked Abeln's dog Spanky. He typically returned Spanky to the Abeln's home.
- “We got home and Spanky was not in his kennel, so we think he is still over at Esrock’s,” said Abeln. “And I think that’s when we knew.”
Yet he held out hope.
- “You know, there are 50,000 people in Chesterfield,” said Abeln.
But the next morning, Saturday, they learn Janet Esrock is in Mercy Hospital's ICU, fighting for her life. Jonathan is seriously injured.
The next week, his football team is scheduled to play Ladue—Janet Esrock's high school alma mater. Abeln thinks about how she would love to seem him beat Ladue. SLUH wins 49-27. He's feels optimistic.
But the following week, news comes of the results of Esrock's brain scan in a text from his own mother, just before a game with Webster Groves.
- "'Hey, the brain scan said there was no activity, so it’s not good.’"
- “There were strokes all over the brain,” said Abeln. “The doctors said she can’t interpret things, but she can see and observe, feel things, but she can’t say ‘This is a table’ or say ‘I need to wake up.’”
- Doctors determined she would not be able to wake up, and life support was pulled on Tuesday. Abeln’s mother Julie was in the room as she passed.
- The funeral was ...held at a small Jewish chapel, the same place Esrock and her husband were married. Abeln missed a pep rally and two classes to attend.
- Abeln and his family sat with Esrock's family. The chapel held 300 but 2,000 came.
That night, the football coach gave the team advice before the game: Play every play like it's your last—give 100 percent.
- “And that really hit home with me, like every play could be my last. This could be my last game."
- Esrock’s death has been a source of struggle for Abeln. He misses Esrock’s math tutoring, which has helped him with his classes at SLUH. And he misses their conversations, talking football.
- “She would clip out papers and say, ‘Did you see this kid signed here or got this offer?’” explained Abeln.
- Abeln will continue to miss her, he will do his best to move on, always doing his best to honor Janet Esrock. “There really isn’t anything we can do now, it’s in the past,” said Abeln. “Take every play like it is your last.”