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Excerpt from Hazing: Destroying Young Lives. “A Mother’s Story” by Debbie Smith

Excerpt:

The Early Morning Phone Call

It was 6:10 a.m. on February 2, 2005, when my husband, Greg—Matt’s stepfather— received a call that something terrible had happened and that Matt was in a hospital in Chico. Greg in turn phoned me, and when he said Matt’s name I felt the blood rush from my head, as I realized I was experiencing every parent’s worst nightmare.

I immediately hung up and called Enloe Medical Center in Chico. A nurse confirmed that Matt was there and asked if I was alone. I told her that my younger son, Matt’s fourteen-year-old brother, Travis, was with me. Concerned by the question I immediately screamed to Travis, who had freshman finals that day and was getting ready for school, and told him to call Greg and tell him to come home. Then the doctor treating Matt came on the line. He told me that Matt had been found in the basement of a fraternity house. He was not breathing. When the paramedics got him to the hospital he was in full cardiac arrest. The doctor said I needed to get to the hospital right away and not to drive myself. I begged him to please save my son.

My mind was spinning with so many questions and no answers. I called my sister Frankie to let her know what I knew and what I speculated—that I wasn’t sure if Matt was going to make it—and we prayed we would make it in time to see my son alive. She said she was leaving work and going to get our other sister, Angie. The two would meet us in Chico.

Excerpt from Hazing, edited by Hank Nuwer:

 

By Hank Nuwer

Journalist Hank Nuwer is the Alaska author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. In April of 2024, the Alaska Press Club awarded him first place in the Best Columnist division and Best Humorist, second place.

He has written articles or columns on hazing for the Sunday Times of India, Toronto Globe & Mail, Harper's Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, The Chronicle of Higher Education and the New York Times Sunday Magazine. His current book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press. He is married to Malgorzata Wroblewska Nuwer of Warsaw, Poland and Fairbanks, Alaska. Nuwer is a former columnist for the Greenville (Ohio)Early Bird and former managing editor of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in Alaska.
Nuwer was named the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists columnist of the year in 2021 for his “After Darke” column in the Early Bird. He also won third place for the column in 2022 from the Indiana chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. He and his wife Gosia, recently of Union City, Ind., have owned 20 acres in Alaska for many years. “The move is a sort-of coming home for us,” said Nuwer. As a journalist, he’s written about the Alaskan Iditarod sled-dog race and other Alaska topics. Read his musings in his blog at Real Alaska Daily--http://realalaskadaily.com and in his weekly column "Far from Randolph" in the Winchester Star-Gazette of Randolph County, Indiana.

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