Sunday, June 26, 2011

Unbelievable tragedy for Austin Hatch

Everybody knows someone who's dealt with tragedy in their lives. But this one is about as unbelievable a situation as they come.

I met and photographed Canterbury High School basketball player Austin Hatch earlier this year. I knew of the plane crash that claimed the lives of his mother and two siblings in 2003. He and his father survived the crash, but to me it was unimaginable to lose your family in such a manner. Now Austin will have to endure the nightmare all over again, as he and his father were involved in another plane crash, which happened this weekend near Charlevoix, Mich. This crash, however, claimed his father's and stepmother's lives and left him in a medically-induced coma, fighting for his own life.

When I met Austin I was struck by the level of humility, composure and drive exhibited by such a young man. In this age of entitled, self-important athletes, it was refreshing to meet someone with his personality. He seemed determined to point himself toward greatness.

The last time I spoke to Austin was at an AAU tourney in May. He was with his team, but not playing due to a foot injury. To me it spoke to his character that he came to an AAU tourney and sat on the bench with his team when many in his situation would spend the weekend doing, well, something other than sitting the bench. Just last week, he committed to playing for the University of Michigan basketball team under scholarship. I knew it was his desire to go to Michigan because he spoke of his ultimate goal, which was to go to medical school whether he played college ball or not. Austin said if he could go anywhere it would be Michigan. He had several major D1 schools interested, but when Michigan offered, it probably didn't take him five seconds to make the decision.

I am pulling for Austin to make it out of this, just as anyone who knows him is. For as good a basketball player as he is, he's a better kid. Many who don't know Austin are pulling for him as well. Just do a search for Austin Hatch on Twitter, and you'll see the number of people thinking of him today. He's got a tough road ahead of him, not just physically, but also emotionally. Based on my limited interactions with Austin, I'm confident if anyone can cope with such an unimaginable tragedy, it is him.

Get well soon, Austin.


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