ALBANY, N.Y. — It's not the first time an amazing show of support has been demonstrated for the families of the accident victims from the Northway crash that killed two and injured two others.
First, during a candlelight vigil at Shenendehowa shortly after the crash. Thursday night at Siena College was no different.
A double header between the Shen and Shaker basketball teams was played at Siena to accomodate was what expected to be a huge crowd. Sure enough, thousands of people showed up.
Regina Stewart embraced Brian and Deborah Rivers, the lives of their children, Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers, the reasons behind the basketball games Thursday night.
“Deanna had a big heart, and that's why we're all here tonight,” says Brian Rivers, Deanna's father.
“We're getting just as many hugs from the blue shirts as we are from the green shirts,” adds Mike Stewart, Chris' father. “It's a nice night.”
The families and most of the crowd wore t-shirts with Rivers' and Stewart's sports numbers, 19 and 69. It was a sea of green and blue, two schools united.
“The mutual respect and bonds that have formed is truly the most positive thing that has come out of this unthinkable tragedy,” says Ed Dopp, Shaker's Director of Athletics.
“We're never going to be able to bring back Chris and Deanna,” adds Shenendehowa Director of Athletics Chris Culnan. “But hopefully this is small gesture where the families can come out and enjoy something that Chris and Deanna were really about, which was sports.”
Then, in between the girls and boys basketball games, a special moment for the families. An announcement that $22,000 was raised for the Christopher Stewart and Deanna Rivers memorial scholarships.
Bailey Wind, Stewart's girlfirend was presented with a Shen jersey with his number on it.
“I would do anything to get them back, but this is just amazing,” says Wind.
It was an emotional night, full of hugs and tears, but not without some smiles for Rivers and Stewart.
“I'd say Chris would be right smack in the middle of the student section, screaming loud,” says Regina Stewart, Chris' mother.
“Chris would have had fun tonight,” adds Mike Stewart. “This is his type of night. He would have been the first to arrive and the last to leave.”