The Beginning and The End of Us

The Beginning

You can meet the most important people in your life in a lot of different and crazy ways. Some people meet their best friends in school, in a coffee shop, or even on vacation. Me? I met my five best friends on Twitter and at a music video shoot in Chicago. Kind of weird, no? How many people can say they met five of the most crucial pieces of their story on the internet and at a music video shoot? I can! In 2013 I was 13 in eighth grade, and best friends with somebody who had a mom willing to take the two of us wherever the Indianapolis-based band Late Nite Reading went. Lying about our ages, we drove 4.5 hours to be in the music video for their song Walls. After getting lost in China-town we made it back to the music video location and got in line. Standing in front of us are two dirty blonde-haired girls. I struck up conversation with the taller one sporting a My Chemical Romance varsity jacket. Insert Isabella (Izzy/Zizy/Zizzle) Mione. All night the four of us were together, talking, and creating a friendship that would last much longer than the five hours we were with this band. We got each other’s social media, and have been in contact since. Throughout middle school and my currently three years of high school, Izzy was there. She is always supporting me, and is always keeping up with me. Numerous times have we told each other that we feel as if we’ve never had a friend as good as the other. It’s a special type of bond that we share. Having gone through every phase and every emotion together, we’ve seen and heard and shown it all. Also at the music video shoot, I met McKenzie (Kenzie/Kenz) Lacefield. We talked once or twice but didn’t become actual friends until around 2014/2015. March 14, 2015 I went to a show in Joliet, IL for the Chicago-based band 7 Minutes In Heaven, who at the time were great friends with the guys in Late Nite Reading. At this show, I met a very special birthday girl, Brittany (Britt) Coffland. I’d seen her on Twitter. She was known for loving Timmy, the lead singer of 7 Minutes In Heaven. Anybody who followed the guys in 7MIH knew who Brittany was.We exchanged a few words, but Izzy was at the show as well so my attention was focused on her. I did tell Brittany that Timmy was talking about her and I told her, “Happy Birthday!”

Throughout 2014 and 2015 I became close friends with Tira (Tear-uh/Tiara) Rock (Roche) and Sydney (Syd) Ruefel (Ruffle.) All six of us were fans of the bands 7 Minutes In Heaven and Late Nite Reading. In July of 2015 I went to Vans Warped Tour in Chicago, IL. Brittany was attending, and since we had become such good friends a few months after the Joliet show, we could not wait to be reunited— texting in all capital letters to assure the other that they were excited about the reunion. Right next to the amphitheater, the bathrooms, the food, and a bunch of napping and angsty teens, we met up. Her bright smile lifted up my entire mood. The 98° weather was worth it at that point. We talked for awhile and took a picture together and had to part ways but assured each other that we would meet back up before the end of the night.Towards the end, I realized that the 7 Minutes In Heaven dudes were there and my mission was to make sure Britt saw Timmy. I texted her and called her and told her to run over, keeping Timmy by my side so she would have the chance to see him. His face lit up upon her entrance to the area. It was a mutual adoration between the two.

(Below from left to right: Tira with Timmy, Sydney with Timmy, Me with Brittany, and Izzy with Brittany)

The Middle

Izzy, McKenzie, Tira, Sydney, Britt, and I were all friends with each other, but we had never gotten together in a groupchat. It wasn’t until June 2016 after seeing Brady Szuhaj, ex-bassist of Late Nite Reading that I texted McKenzie, Izzy, Tira, and Britt about the night. I didn’t have Sydney because it was focused around LNR and she was more on the 7MIH side of things! We slowly started talking more and more and created this beautiful bond between all of us. One night we were talking and discussed how the new fans of the bands we loved had no clue who the guys really were. We said we were the “og’s” and it clicked. That was our group chat name. So there we were, Me from Decatur, IN, Izzy, McKenzie, and Brittany from suburbs outside of Chicago, and Tira from a city near Boston, MA. In August 2016ish, Tira added Sydney, from Pittsburgh, PA, to the chat. We were all complete. We spent so many hours staying up and ranting, joking, laughing, crying, screaming with each other. Things were perfect. In January 2017 there was a fallout with McKenzie and the groupchat (minus Brittany, she has a heart of gold and cannot hold a grudge on anybody for anything.) So McKenzie left the group chat but the ‘ohgeeze’ remained. The group chat was used to do everything we had before. It was a safe haven for the five of us. All of the bands that brought us together knew of the existence of the chat and they loved it. We all had personal friendships with the guys, and they loved that we could all be friends. As it often happens, life happened to us. We talked a little less and in shorter lengths when we did. We still kept updated on each other, we just didn’t stay in the chat. Brittany always texted us and told us that she loved us and that she hoped we had a good day. Still best friends, just with a few holes.

The End

Not many things can prepare for you life. Your parents can raise you as best as they think they can and you hope for the best. On March 11, I woke up after having gone to a concert the night before, took the SAT and went over to a friend’s house. We were going to another concert that night and were going to get ready at her house. Around 4 pm I was done with my makeup and jewels for the night, when I was getting my stuff together to do my friend’s makeup. Normally when I’m getting ready I don’t look at my phone because I get easily distracted. Something in me said ‘check your phone’ and I did so. Without reading what was written on my screen I scrolled through and noticed that there was a group chat going crazy. My phone stopped scrolling and the first text my eyes read was “Is she f*cking dead”

Not many things can truly take my breath and my words away. I’m a very verbal human being who shares her opinion on everything. But at 4:10 pm on March 11, 2017, not only was I mute, not only was I completely out of breath, I was watching my world fall apart in front of my face. Because, on March 11, 2017, Tira, Sydney, McKenzie, Izzy, and I learned that Brittany was shot and killed in her condo the night before alongside her twin sister Tiffany and her father Randall.

I tried to speak, but my stutters were met with endless tears, and a very confused looking best friend. I kept scrolling through the group chat, which was started by McKenzie asking when the last time we had talked to Brittany was. This was the first time she had talked to us in months, and that alone was alarming. Pain was intertwining itself with my face, everything was on fire and at the same time numb. My best friend was dead. And that was all we knew. I looked up to tell Grace, and I know I spoke, but I didn’t hear the words leave my mouth. I had to be dreaming. My shock was met with horror and the biggest lump forming in my throat. The group chat was flooding in with “oh my god,” “what are we going to do?” “how is this real? this isn’t real.” “brittany’s gone” and “how are we going to tell Timmy? he has to know before it gets out” My friend looked at me in confusion as I dialed Izzy’s number. She picked the phone up and started screaming, this type of screaming is one that I’ll never be able to get out of my brain. She kept yelling and crying and all I could do was answer in a whisper because maybe, just maybe, if I said it quietly enough, it wouldn’t be true. God, did I not want this to be true. I told Izzy I would call Brady and get Timmy’s number and let him know. I next called Brady Szuhaj, having had his number from becoming friends after being a fan of his music. Brady is notorious for not answering his phone, but for reasons I will always be thankful for, he did. I don’t ever contact him on his phone, and if I do it’s a text message. His concern was clear from the beginning. I had to explain to him what was going on and that I needed Timmy’s number. He read it to me and was checking up on me through my fits of crying. I hung up and took a breath. How is this my life. How is this what I’m doing ten minutes before I’m supposed to leave for a concert? How? How? How? How?

Dialing Timmy’s number was a fear that I didn’t know existed. He too is awful at answering his phone, but after three rings, I heard the familiar voice.

“Hey Timmy, this is Morgan, @sunsetmorgan from Twitter”

“Hey Morgan, what’s up?”

“Uh can I talk to you really quick? Are you busy? It’s important. I got your number from Brady Szuhaj because I needed to talk.”

“I’m at work right now, but I can talk.”

“You might want to get away from people. Timmy this isn’t what I want to talk to you about right now, but Brittany? She’s dead.”

Telling your best friend’s idol that she’s dead isn’t an experience that I ever would have imagined I’d have. Having to explain the incident again was rough as is, but having Timmy’s voice break and having him ask me if I’m sure, if it’s a joke, if it’s really her. In that moment I would have done anything in the entire world to tell him that I was kidding and that she’ll be at the next show, front row, smiling and singing and crying over the love she has for him. We sat on the phone in silence as I paced the bedroom of my friend. I cracked and then thanked him for making her happy. He was arguably the only human who she loved so dearly. It was a bond like no other. The connection broke and he texted me asking if I was okay. I called my mom and had to tell the event for the fourth time, and my heart was empty. I collected myself, got the two of us ready for the concert and went on my way, wondering just how I was supposed to survive. So much confusion and so much pain lingered in my body. I felt so empty.

After the concert I emailed the commander of investigations of St. Charles, IL and sent him screenshots of texts and tweets that I thought could possibly help with the investigation. The next morning I was sitting on the phone with Erik Mahan, talking about my dead best friend, trying to figure out when my life turned into this situation. Mahan questioned me about Brittany, her home life, her parents, her problems, how I knew her, where I met her, etc, and then offered his condolences. Before we hung up, he did warn me that they were going to start releasing more information and the calls to 911 would be up on the internet. My life wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Monday morning, I woke up with a hole in my heart. I dragged myself out of bed, got dressed, and headed to school. Being a junior in highschool I had a lot going on, not only academically but no personally. I didn’t want to talk to any of my friends and I didn’t want any of them to talk to me. I walked into my guidance counselors’ office and asked if I could talk to my specific counselor. At this point nobody really knew what was going on or what happened, I had tweeted about her, but nobody knew the extent of what I was going through or what I was thinking.

My counselor walked out and walked me back into his room. At that point I wasn’t crying, I could talk normally, but that wasn’t for long.

“So, I need to talk about something. It’s pretty heavy. And I’m probably going to cry a lot.” The vulnerability that I felt was at a high. I don’t like feeling exposed, and that leads to me keeping my problems in. But this was a problem that was going to impact me for longer than I’d want it to.

“Hey that’s what I’m here for. What’s going on?” At this point my counselor was used for scheduling my classes and… that was it.

“So, over the weekend, I found out that my best friend in Chicago was shot and killed alongside her twin sister Tiffany. They haven’t released details on what happened or who did it.”

I can’t remember the exact words after that because tears started flooding my eyes and my counselor looked at me in horror. What do you say to a 17 year old after they tell you their best friend was murdered? Nothing. Because nothing will fix her.

He emailed all of my teachers and let them know what was going on, and if I needed to leave at any point to allow me. I was shown a room in the office that I was welcomed to go to at any point in the day if I needed to be alone. Tuesday the 911 calls were released and we were told that Brittany’s dad was the one who killed the girls, shot Anjum in the legs, and then proceeded to kill himself. I was hesitant to listen to calls but I knew I would hear them eventually. Now at home, I put in some headphones and played the first call, which was made by Randall Coffland, father of Brittany and Tiffany. His panicked voice confessed to the murder and said, “I just killed my kids, I shot my wife, and now I’m going to kill myself.” I had to listen to call twice because I was so in shock. Randall never showed signs of mental illness, never expressed anger, and did anything and everything he ever could to support his girls. He would have been the last person on my list of people to do this. The second call was made by Anjum Coffland, mother of Brittany and Tiffany. To this day, May 21, 2017, I can hear her screaming in my head. She tells the operator what has happened and mid sentence you hear her find Brittany and repeatedly screaming her name. I fear I’ll never be able to get the sound out of my head.

During my third period class on Wednesday was when the details of the wake were released. The family decided to have a closed funeral, but were keeping their wake open to the public. Through my tears I told my teacher that I needed to leave class, and he told me to take my time. The worried looks of the kids in my class were heartbreaking. I sat in my school’s bathroom and called each of the girls to let them know that details were released and that I would let Timmy know about them. The wake was scheduled to be in two days on Friday the 17th of March. I promised McKenzie and Izzy that I was going to be in attendance at the wake no matter what I needed to do. That night my parents and I agreed that my dad would drive me to St. Charles, IL in two days. Everything was happening so quickly, and nothing felt real.

Thursday morning Sydney texted me and told me that she was going to buy a train ticket and ride over to Indiana on Friday and asked if I could pick her up. I told my parents that I was going to pick her up and that she was gonna come to St. Charles with me and dad. At this point in time my life was a movie.

Tattoos

Brittany’s love and adoration for the band 7 Minutes In Heaven is what started the concept of group tattoos. We all wanted to have a piece of her with us for the rest of our lives, but what could we put on us that would do Brittany justice. All together we agreed that the line “I’m okay if you’re okay” is what we wanted. That line is more than lyrics. For the me and the girls it was a way to get through this pain. If Brittany was okay, if she wasn’t battling her depression anymore, if she wasn’t in pain, than we would be okay. Within four days Izzy, Tira, Sydney, and I had our tattoos. After each of us received our tattoo we told our experience, and each of our tattoo artists talked about how strong we are, who awesome it is, and so on. The movement started on Twitter after it became apparent that was the line being used to represent Brittany. Everybody was reacting so nicely to the message we were trying to send.

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The Day of and The Wake

After I drove to Waterloo, IN to pick up Sydney we went home, got ready, and left for Chicago. The four hour drive was painful. Knowing I was headed to my favorite city to see my best friend in a casket was a concept I wasn’t ready to handle. After many naps and a few Big Time Rush songs, Sydney and I arrived in St. Charles, IL, hometown of our precious angel. We parked across the street of the coffee shop we all planned to meet up at. Little did we know that we were in the center of Brittany’s entire life. Her work was across the street from the coffee shop which just so happened to be right across the street from her home. The memorial for the girls was breathtaking. My dad, Sydney, and I stood there in silence, looking over everything that was in front of us. Alive, Brittany feared nobody liked her. She thought that she annoyed everybody and that she wasn’t worthy of any attention given to her. Of course, this was her depression talking, but it hurts nonetheless. I couldn’t help but cry over the love being poured into the posters and cards and flowers and balloons for the two beautiful girls. I hope and pray that Brittany saw the impact that she left on everybody in her life.

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After a while we walked over to the coffee shop and ordered hot chocolate to pass the time. McKenzie arrived first, she walked up to our table and broke into tears. Hugging the two of us we all stood there and cried. No words were spoken. Her mom hugged us next and shared her condolences. Her mom and dad and my dad all sat in the room next to us so we could be together and be alone. Izzy came next. Her dad dropped her off and the three of us ran to engulf her in a hug. The four of us walked into the coffee shop and talked as if we weren’t really there for our reason. It felt nice to actually laugh together and to talk and act like we were put together. Timmy came last and that was the piece of the puzzle that I needed to accept what I was doing and what I was feeling. After we talked for a while we decided to head to the memorial and then to the wake. McKenzie left with her parents, my dad followed suit, and I left with Timmy, Izzy, and Sydney. Before we left the parking lot Timmy asked us if we wanted to hear new 7 Minutes In Heaven music, to which we obviously said yes. The car ride was bittersweet, we were hanging out with a guy that had a gigantic impact on all three of us, but we were headed to a church that I never should of had to step foot in. We arrived at the church, yanno, after getting lost. We met back up with McKenzie and her mom and started to walk in. Izzy made a collage of picture of the five of us and Brittany to leave there. A lady stopped us and told us where we could set the poster‍ at.

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She told us there were two lines, one that took you directly to the girls and one that took you to the family and then to the girls. I asked who from her family was there, hoping that her mom was in attendance. She said that Anjum was allowed to be there and we were lucky enough to catch her. The only way I can describe how I felt taking those steps into the church is to say I was terrified. Up until now, aside from reuniting with McKenzie nobody had cried, nobody had lost themselves, and I was so scared that when we walked in all of the composure we once had would just be taken away from under our feet. Hand in hand the six of walked inside. I don’t think any of us were breathing as the doors closed behind us. Around us were strangers that looked upset and were sharing whispers. We found a place to sit the poster down at and walked into the room that had pictures of the girls and their things that resembled them in their everyday lives. I mean it when I say every single poster that included Brittany had a picture of Timmy on it. As soon as we saw the first one, we all cracked. Timmy and McKenzie mom held a strong composure but nothing was stopping us four girls from grabbing each other in utter terror. I can clearly see Izzy’s face and I can feel the ground underneath my feet as I tried to cement myself from having to look at another picture of my best friend smiling. Multiple times did we have to stop and cry and just hug each other. Even now, as I’m sitting in my Spanish class, two months and ten days after this event I can still feel everything. When we got halfway through this room Izzy’s nails dug into my arm and her face was white. I thought things couldn’t get any harder than the pain I was already feeling, but the next set of words to leave her mouth were words I didn’t want to hear. “Morgan, it’s open casket.” I stopped in my tracks and looked back at everybody, I wasn’t sure I could handle it. By this point the girls were incoherent. I can see the look on Sydney’s face, so much pain and hurt and sadness. This look cannot be recreated. We all held hands, Timmy following us from behind, and started to walk down. My heart was on fire, my tongue was on fire, I thought I was going to burn right then and there. Each step nearing her beautiful mother felt like another stab in my side. Izzy muttered out that she couldn’t talk to Anjum, so I promised all of them that I would. It was finally our turn and I think I would have given anything in the entire world to walk back up and out of the church.

“Hi Anjum, I first wanted to tell you that I am so sorry about everything. The four of us were best friends with Brittany. We met on Twitter and we all traveled to be here today. My name is Morgan, I’m from Indiana, this is Izzy she’s from here, so is McKenzie, and this is Sydney from Pittsburgh, PA. There is another one of us, Tira, but she lives in MA and couldn’t make it out in time. She sends her love.” By this point a lot of people were listening in on our conversation. The family members around us were amazed, even though they had no clue who we were. Anjum, however, did know us.

“I know you girls. Brittany always talked about you. She’d tell me what concert you were going to or what school you got accepted into. She loved you girls so much.” She held my hand as we stood there and cried.

“We love her with everything in us. She was so important to all of us, and we can never thank you enough for giving us the time that we had with her. We promise to live our lives for her and to experience everything in her name. We actually all started doing so by getting tattoos for her.” Anjum started crying which made us all cry too. We pulled up our sleeves and hiked up our legs to show the family our ink. “It’s from the band 7 Minutes In Heaven. She loved them.”

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“Oh, I know that. She loved that band so much. She’d always sit on the couch and just talk about them.”

“Timmy was the light of her life, and it was a mutual thing. Timmy adored her so much, and actually, he’s here today.” Timmy walked up and I watched everybody start crying. Anjum held onto Timmy’s hand with all of the hurt and pain and love that she held over her daughters. Everybody thanked Timmy for making Brittany smile. I hugged Izzy and Sydney and McKenzie and tried to stop crying, but it wouldn’t happen. After Anjum talked to Timmy, Brittany’s uncle took Timmy’s hand. He kept apologizing for Randall taking her away and through my tears I told him to not put that on himself. It wasn’t anybody’s fault but Randall’s. Her uncle told us that they were burying her in a 7 Minutes In Heaven sweatshirt because that is what she would have wanted, and they couldn’t have been more right. They thanked us for coming and we took a step before stopping one more time. We had to see the girls now. Tiffany was first. None of us ever really talked to Tiff, only in passing. I think you could have gotten the strongest person on this earth and you still would not have been able to rip our hold on each other apart. Those next steps leading to Brittany’s casket seemed to take all of the time in the world.

She didn’t look real. Her skin was so bright and even in death did she look so beautiful. I stood there and tried to talk but all that would come out is, “this isn’t real” and “oh my god.” Timmy walked up to each of us and just hugged us. I looked at him and thanked him. “Thank you for bringing me my best friends, thank you for bringing me Brittany, and thank you for being here.”

We all walked up the row of seats and sat down. There are no words to describe what we all felt. It was so crazy to me that my life had lead to this very moment. Instead of being at a concert  I was sitting next to Timmy at a wake. Instead of texting her, I was sitting next to Sydney who came all of the way from Pittsburgh. Instead of waiting in line for a show I was sitting next to McKenzie and Izzy trying to simply breathe. My life wasn’t meant to turn out this way. Eventually we stopped talking about our sadness and we sat and talked about her life and how much we loved her. At one point Brittany had given Timmy a box that stood for healing and there was a heart inside, we talked to him about it and he got quiet, dug into his pocket, and pulled that very box out, “I’ve kept it with me since I found out.” We already knew that he loved her, but that was a step I didn’t know how to handle. I can only hope that Brittany was standing with us and she saw that. Brittany always questioned if he really cared or if he thought she was annoying; we always assured her that he adored her. God did we all adore her.

A guy and a girl walked up to the group of us and we all got quiet. The boy introduced himself first, “Hello, my name is Miller.” The second he said his name we all looked at each other. Brittany worked with Miller and boy were we familiar with his name. We all stood up, introduced ourselves, and hugged him. He shared his thoughts and love to us. He was so well spoken and with every word it became more and more real. He told us that she always talked about us and he thanked us for helping her when she couldn’t help herself. Miller, if you read this, thank you for coming up to us. It was so nice to put a face to all of the stories. We may have met under the worst conditions, but I’m glad it happened. Next was a girl who was friends with Brittany at school who knew about us too. Having people from Brittany’s life come up to us and share their love was weird because we were always the ones going up to people at concerts and telling them how much we loved them, but now the tables were turned. Eventually we decided it was time to leave so we walked up to Brittany one last time and told her how much we love her. “You’re always going to be an OG.” We walked back up the church rows and were met with Anjum. She was coming back after doing some check ups in the hospital. She told us that she wanted to keep in touch if it was okay with us, and that was the best thing she could have said to us. We wrote everything down, hugged her, and walked to our parents. All of us hugged and parted ways. It was one of those cliche moments of looking in the mirror and watching them disappear into the sun, but at this point it was all a movie.

All of the Days After

Nothing makes sense to us. We each have days that we forget about the pain and then we each have days where we have to be verbally reminded she is never coming back. Our best friend, whom only three of us got to meet, was never going to text us again. She was never going to tell us about the fight she got into with Tiffany, the trouble she got into for talking to Miller, the next time she was going to see Timmy, or worst of all, she was never going to be able to tell us that she loves us. We’re still coming to terms with the fact that she will never say “I love you” to any of us, ever again. With everything to feel, we all feel regret. And it isn’t your typical regret, because we know there was nothing we could have done to help her. The biggest regret we all have is the fact that we never replied. Tuesday, March 7, at 10:32 pm all of our phones went off with the last text we would ever receive from her. “i hope you guys have been doing well i love you lots💛💛” None of us replied, because we were all so used to her texting us things like this that we assumed we would just talk soon.

C4Vl2nmUYAAv7ve Since her death, we’ve all dealt with things together. Our friendship is as strong as ever, but unfortunately we are not longer in a chat with McKenzie. We have days where we cannot speak about anything other than her and there are days where we turn our phones off to avoid seeing her name. Two months and ten days later we have stopped crying but we haven’t stopped grieving. We collectively made a playlist of songs to listen to that remind us of her. Me and the girls are hoping to travel to Chicago someday soon to meet up with Anjum and visit Brittany and Tiffany.  

Dear Brittany,

 I hope you know how much we love you. I hope you know how much your mom loves you. I hope you are in a place of complete happiness. We promise to play 7 Minutes In Heaven with you, and hopefully Timmy will be there so we can hear the new stuff. You’re our entire world, girly. You brought us so many happy memories and so many happy days. I often find myself checking your social media. I know that I’ll never see anything new come from you, but I think it helps to see what you said once before. Our time together may have been short, but I’ll never be so thankful. You’re my guardian angel. I love you. I’ll see you soon.
-Morgan

Brittany and Tiffany Coffland were 16 years old, four days away from being 17, when they had their lives take. Any and all prayers should go to Anjum Coffland and the loved ones of the two precious girls.

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