On Friday night, the Lowcountry lost one of its greatest young people we’ve ever seen. I was coming back from covering Hilton Head High’s state championship basketball game when the news of this heartbreaking tragedy shocked me in every way.
DJ Fields was an incredible young man. He was never the star of his Bluffton football team, but he always brought his best every day on every play and did it with a smile from ear to ear.
Whether it was working at Kilwins, tutoring his classmates after school, or striving to improve on the gridiron, Fields brought an unbeatable work ethic, passion, and dedication. He was the epitome of a leader and shaped all his friends as well as himself to be the best people they could be every day. But what impressed me the most about this amazing individual was his kindness and compassion to his friends, teammates, and everyone he met.
Even when he was mad at himself, he found a way to push through and stay positive. He set an amazing example from the life he led, and it’s just unfair that his time on this earth had to end so quickly after some others failed to show that compassion and kindness that DJ preached.
This was a moment that never should have happened, but in that dark day of despair, there are ways in which this tragedy can shed some light on the qualities that we need to show every single day to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
As Bluffton’s head football coach John Houpt said, there’s just too much hate being spewed across this world, especially online. We need to learn as one big family that hateful messages are the matches that spark divide, disagreement, and disaster. If we can refrain from activities that build this tension and gravitate towards messages of love instead, our world would be an awesome place.
We may be rivals on the field, court, diamond, track, or pool, but we are all one Lowcountry and one community. In fact, even before Hilton Head High School, Bluffton High, and May River came into being, there was McCracken High School, which housed students from all corners of the area.
At the end of the day, we are all human beings on the same planet. So why do we continue to have the urge to show hate towards our own people? If we all decide to love one another, regardless of the result displayed on the scoreboard at the end of a game, we all are winners.
As Houpt said, it’s great to be competitive, but it’s even better to show compassion for your opponents in victory or defeat. Congratulate the winners in defeat, and in victory, praise the losing team on a fantastic effort. If we spread positive messages and eradicate the negative ones, we can come together and live a life of celebration and happiness instead of one of anger and sorrow.
It’s really tough to move on from a tragedy like this. I can’t imagine how hard it will be for EJ Graham and Kylan Simmons to push on after witnessing something like this, as well as the entire Bluffton and Lowcountry community.
Despite this horrific event, I am so uplifted to see the community coming together and displaying the fact that we indeed are in this together. We saw incredible gestures from students, teachers, and alumni of Hilton Head High, May River, and schools across the area. Even Seahawk alum and NFL star Poona Ford used his platform to show his love for his hometown.
The vigil on Sunday was not just attended by Bluffton residents, but by so many others in the Lowcountry. The support gives me hope that despite this heartbreaking event, we have a big family that cares for one another, supports one another, and will do anything for one another in times of need.
DJ was a wonderful young man and is an irreplaceable loss to our community. But we will learn from this unforgivable event and come out stronger as one. Enough is truly enough. There is no room for hate, anguish, and bigotry, but we can never have enough love.
Let’s use DJ’s amazing values of kindness, respect, passion, and determination to drive us forward. At the end of the day, we must all do our part to make this community the shining place it can be. We may be many, but we are all #OneLowco.
By Wes Kerr