David Shannon’s family looks to keep his name alive

When David Shannon was in sixth grade, he wrote an essay about losing a loved one.

“You never think of the bad times — only the good ones,” he wrote. “And then it becomes easier to think about them and that you won’t see them again. It really does help ease the pain.”

And since the UNC freshman died four months ago today after falling 40 feet from machinery at the Ready Mixed Concrete Plant in Carrboro, that’s what those who loved him have chosen to do.

His house in Charlotte is decorated with reminders of who he was and who he aspired to be: a business student, a UNC alumnus, the “best future husband” — which is the distinction he received in the class of 2012 superlatives at Myers Park High School.

In his last days, he voted in a presidential election for the first time, leaving an “I Voted” sticker on the wallet that now sits on a dresser in his bedroom.

He painted N.C. State’s Free Expression Tunnel before the UNC- N.C. State football game, accidentally painting his brand new pair of shoes Carolina blue in the process.

“If there was something going on, he would be there,” his mother, Katy Shannon, said. “That’s the kind of school spirit he had.”

Honoring his memory

Carrboro Police Capt. Walter Horton said in an email that police have no new information to release since their Oct. 30 report.

But David Shannon’s parents aren’t waiting on the investigation for closure.

“I feel like there’s already that closure. If there’s any surprising thing that comes out that we’re not aware of now, that could change,” his father, Hugh Shannon, said. “It was an unfortunate, tragic accident.”

In the four months since David Shannon died, his parents have been inundated with cards, photos and stories from everyone from elementary school friends to those who met him during his two months at UNC, where he was a pledge in the Chi Phi fraternity.

“I think David made more friends in his 18 years than I’ve made in 53,” Hugh Shannon said.

And those who knew David Shannon have come together on several occasions to raise money and serve others in his memory.

On Feb. 15, Emily Gibbons, a freshman at N.C. State University who had known David Shannon since she was 12, helped organize a cookout to raise money for the David Palmer Shannon Memorial Fund. More than 300 people attended, bringing in more than $2,000.

“Whenever you saw him, he was smiling or laughing or making a joke,” Gibbons said. “Once you met him, you felt like you were his best friend. He’s very memorable.”

And Hugh Shannon hopes the memory of his son — a high school football player, an international DECA champion and a Bible study teacher — lives on.

“Remember his love for Christ and his love for people,” Hugh Shannon said.

The same religion that defined their son has remained an important presence in the lives of his parents, who still go to church every week.

“It’s a place that our family always went together. There are times when it gets just emotional,” Katy Shannon said. “If we didn’t go, I think that would be harder.”

And they say their faith has given them peace of mind.

“Knowing that David is perfect and whole and in heaven is where I take my greatest peace,” Katy Shannon said.

Learning from tragedy

The Shannons are working to make sure some good comes from the tragedy of their son’s death.

“David obviously was drinking that night, and I imagine part of what was going through his mind is, ‘I’m not driving, so it doesn’t matter how much I drink.’ This shows that drunk driving is not the only problem that alcohol can cause,” Hugh Shannon said.

Hugh Shannon recently met with Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Winston Crisp and Aaron Bachenheimer, director of UNC’s Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and Community Involvement, to discuss helping the UNC community by sharing his son’s story.

“We really appreciate Mr. Shannon reaching out to us and wanting to help,” Bachenheimer said. “We think that would be valuable.”

Hugh Shannon said he wants to emphasize drinking responsibly and taking care of friends when students go out.

“We don’t know all the circumstances of exactly how David died — whether he was alone or if anybody might have been with him,” Hugh Shannon said. “It appears he was alone, and if someone had been with him, maybe this could have been prevented.”

David Shannon would have turned 19 on Jan. 26 — the same day that his mother turned 50. It was a day they planned on spending together.

“We got through the birthday,” she said. “That was kind of a tough point because that’s something we shared for 18 years.”

Friends of her son sent her more than 150 birthday cards.

“These were not cards that kids just bought a stamp and mailed it,” she said. “They wrote nice things, just heartfelt encouragement to me.”

And at home, the Shannons blew up 19 balloons in colors representing different parts of David Shannon’s life — Carolina blue and white, Myers Park green and white, pink for the color he always wore and black for Buster, the family dog that still jumps up on his bed to sleep.

“We did that to celebrate his life,” Katy Shannon said.

Contact the desk editor at city@dailytarheel.com.

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