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


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

Hank Nuwer is the Indiana-based author of Hazing: Destroying Young Lives; Broken Pledges: The Deadly Rite of Hazing, High School Hazing, Wrongs of Passage and The Hazing Reader. 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 new book is Hazing: Destroying Young Lives from Indiana University Press.

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