Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Chris Newsom: 'Safe at home'

There are no words left to describe the tragedy that is the murder of Chris Newsom and Channon Christian.

Don't know how you feel about it, but I've gotten to where I can't watch the television coverage of the trial. It's too tough. It's too close.

I've been reading the daily newspaper reports. I've been hearing from friends. I think about the families quite a bit.

Yesterday, several of you called or e-mailed saying that Mr. Hugh Newsom quoted one of my pieces on Chris during his impact statement. I am humbled beyond belief to say the least.

I don't know which one he quoted, but by request I'm sharing with you the article I wrote following Chris's funeral in January 2007 and the Chris Newsom Memorial Baseball Tournament in April 2009.

Take a minute today and remember the Newsom and Christian families in your thoughts and prayers.

'Safe at home' -- originally published in the Jan. 15. 2007 Halls Shopper-News

He was a great kid with a great smile.

All you’d see, Beaver Dam Baptist Church youth pastor Scott Hood remembers, was “teeth and a hat.”

He had a sensitive heart, the kind that made him weep at the movie “The Fox and the Hound” as a child.

He was No. 14, the leadoff hitter for the Halls High School baseball team, a natural born athlete who also loved to golf, fish, ride motorcycles and have fun.

He was a true friend, the kind that those who knew him best say they’ll never forget.

And it’s for all these and a million other reasons that Halls mourns the loss of Chris Newsom.

Newsom, 23, a 2002 Halls High graduate, was killed Jan. 7, the victim of an apparent carjacking and murder along with his girlfriend, Channon Christian, 21, in East Knoxville. Family and friends gathered at Beaver Dam Baptist Church last Friday night to celebrate Chris’s life.

Friend Steven Marshall first saw the skinny kid with the super smile playing basketball in his Halls subdivision, next door to the house that Marshall’s family was building. He noticed him a couple of times and finally went to say hello.

“Then I had a friend for life,” Marshall said.

They played on the Knoxville Stars baseball team together, going all the way to the Little League World Series in New Orleans. They’d while away the hours together on Norris Lake — fishing, laughing, doing what buddies do.

“We had some wonderful times together. His friends will never forget him.”

Josh Anderson told the large crowd to look at each other, to “see how big Chris’s heart was.

“He loved everybody here. And he’s still here with us. A piece of his heart is with all of you. He’d want us to be closer. He’d want us to learn something. Something good will come out of this.”

Travis May says he considers Chris to be a brother. They’ve been friends since childhood, back when their families went to church together.

He remembered them playing in a mud puddle together, laughing and splashing one another until 5:15 p.m. rolled around — dinner time.

“(His mother) Mary came out and yelled, ‘Chris, dinner!’ She saw us about 30 yards off and a big smile came over her face. She hosed us down in the coldest water I’ve ever felt.”

Travis was there at Windy Gap Camp when Chris gave his life to Jesus Christ.

“One day I know I’m going to see him again.”

Hood recalled the biblical words from the Book of James that describe life as “a mist that appears for a little time, then vanishes.”

“Life is short. But Chris had a life with Christ. He’s not going to come through that door again. But we know where Chris is.”

A family will mourn and a community can’t help but ask why. But Chris Newsom is in a better place.

The leadoff hitter, the great kid with the great smile, is safe at home.

'What Chris Newsom will never see' -- originally published in the April 6, 2009, Shopper-News

It is tempting to say that Chris Newsom was with us last Thursday night at the Halls Community Park.

No. 14, the digits Chris wore on his back as a Halls High baseball player, were displayed in big white numerals just behind the pitcher’s mound on one of the baseball fields. Hugh Newsom threw out the first pitch to kick off the second annual Chris Newsom Memorial Tournament. Chris’s mother, Mary, and members of his family stood nearby. A dapper gentleman sporting Scottish regalia played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. The recipient of the Chris Newsom Memorial Scholarship, Halls High baseball player Taylor Babcock, was also present.

His memory is very much alive, but I don’t believe Chris was there. I’ll tell you why in a minute.

Halls Community Park president Todd Cook has high hopes for this special Little League baseball tournament. For starters, it’s named for Chris, a Halls native who was murdered along with his girlfriend, Channon Christian, in January 2007. Cook says he’s received calls from Powell teams, Karns teams and others wanting to participate next year. He hopes it becomes a countywide tournament.

State Sen. Tim Burchett made a special trip from Nashville to present the Newsoms with a flag flown over the state Capitol and a letter from Gov. Phil Bredesen. Zane Duncan represented his dad, U.S. Rep. John Duncan. Knox County Sheriff Jimmy “JJ” Jones showed up to pay his respects, too.

As the sky began to gray, and the wind began to blow, and the young baseball players placed their caps over their hearts, one couldn’t help but lament the tragedy of it all.

That’s why I don’t think Chris Newsom was with us last Thursday night. So many people miss him, so many people feel so much heartache, so many tears are still shed in his memory.

And, you see, friends, Chris Newsom will never see any of our grief. He is safe at home. Where he rests now, he’ll never know pain again.

For info on how to participate in or sponsor next year’s Chris Newsom Memorial Tournament, call Todd Cook at 659-4682.

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