Friends and family of Michael Lodl gathered in Newhall Park Friday to honor the life of the Valencia teen who died in a pedestrian-vs.-vehicle collision on Interstate 405 on Tuesday.
More than 200 people, ranging from high school students to adults, teacher to friend, family member to classmate, shared stories or reflected on the positive impact the 17-year-old senior had on Hart High School and his community.
Lodl, who many knew by the Polish pronunciation of his first name, “Mehow,” was described as athletic and intelligent, fun, caring and always prepared to brighten a friend’s day by randomly sending them a song he enjoyed or recently discovered.
During the candlelight vigil, school staff spoke about the student Lodl was, his academic prowess and studious nature in both mathematics and physics.
Former soccer teammates testified to his innate talent at not only their sport, but at all things athletic, from basketball to baseball to football. Others spoke of bonding with Lodl over the years due to his affinity for video games, board games and an interest in astronomy.
They said that although they would enjoy “Star Wars” movie binges and trips to the gym together, Lodl, in all else, stood out in the things he attempted and succeeded at.
Following a number of tearful testimonies, candles were distributed and lit. People continued to share their stories and heartfelt words on how Lodl had taught them to be more caring and supportive to those around them, they said.
As the street lights around the Newhall Park roundabout turned on, Jason Bornn, Saugus High School football head coach and friend of the family, stood in front of the hundreds of flickering candles to impart two ideas on those young people in attendance: Don’t be ashamed if they can’t talk about their personal relationship with Lodl in front of the crowd; and don’t blame themselves for Lodl’s death.
“There’s going to be times you ask yourself the question, ‘What if?’” said Bornn. “‘What if I would have called him? What if I would have hung out with him? What if I would have said the right thing at the right time?’ Woulda, coulda, shoulda.”
“At the end of the day, you’ve got to let that go. You cannot dwell on that; you cannot use that to discourage yourself; you cannot use that to bring you down,” Bornn said. “The bottom line is this: The fact that you were in Mehow’s life was enough.”
“So, when those thoughts start creeping into your head and what you should have or could have done, you need to push them to the curb, and say, ‘You know what? Nah. I’m not even going to go down that path, because nothing good comes out of it.’”
“‘I’m just going to remember those times that I have with Mehow,’” the coach ended.
After the candles were extinguished and placed in bins, those in attendance were invited to the front to pen a message to Lodl’s family and look at pictures of their friend.
Mental health and other resources for the Santa Clarita Valley and surrounding areas are available at BeTheDifferenceSCV.org.