How to help
The Effingham County High School band is collecting donations to assist Raheem Morris’ family with funeral expenses. Donations can be made to the ECHS Band Boosters and dropped off at ECHS or mailed to P.O. Box 826, Springfield GA 31329. The annual Lost Plantation golf cart parade, which is set for Saturday from 7-9 p.m., will be held as a fundraiser for the Morris family.
The show went on for the Effingham County High School band, even though the students were mourning the loss of one of their own.
The ECHS band performed its Christmas concert as scheduled Monday night, just two days after classmate Raheem Morris, 16, died in a crash involving his car and a tractor trailer.
The entire performance was dedicated to Morris, who was a bassoon player in the ECHS wind wnsemble and a bass drummer in the Rebel Regiment marching band. Each band member wore a blue ribbon to honor Morris, and his chair sat empty on the front row with a rose laid in it.
“Raheem was extremely talented and loved by all of his fellow band members,” said ECHS band director Matt Leff. “He was an incredible young man.”
The band also took up a collection to help Morris’ family with funeral expenses. Donations are still being accepted and may be made out to the ECHS Band Boosters and dropped off at ECHS or mailed to P.O. Box 826, Springfield, GA 31329.
The funeral service for Morris will be Saturday at noon at Kemp Grove Baptist Church in Sylvania, according to the Rebel Regiment’s Facebook page.
Leff posted a note on the Facebook page Saturday afternoon after learning of Morris’ death. He addressed it to the ECHS “band family.”
“I have no words … other than to express my heartbreak and sorrow over the tragedy that took Raheem from us.” Leff wrote. “We can never replace that wonderful smile, sense of humor, or talent that he brought our band. My prayers go out to his family as they grieve the loss of this amazing young man.”
Morris was driving on Marlow Road shortly before 8:30 a.m. Saturday and failed to stop at the stop sign at the Highway 17 intersection, according to the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office. His Toyota Camry was hit in the passenger side door by an 18-wheeler driven by Elliott Brown.
“The truck didn’t even have time to hit the brakes,” said ECSO Chief Investigator Don White.
Morris was pronounced dead at the scene. Brown was transported to the hospital with injuries investigators described as not life-threatening.
No passengers were in either vehicle, White said. The crash is being investigated by the Georgia State Patrol.
As word spread of Morris’ death, the Rebel Regiment Facebook page was flooded with fond memories of the 16-year-old and condolences for his family.
“Raheem could make anyone laugh and smile no matter the circumstances,” said Madison Mettler. “For someone that could make anyone laugh, it is hard to shed so many tears over him.”
Sarah Hartlaub, a 2013 ECHS graduate, shared these sentiments: “I will always miss his smile and his kind attitude towards anyone he met. He was such a great friend and musician. But I know he is smiling down on us and he will always be with the ECHS band program cheering y’all on!”
Saturday’s fatal wreck occurred at the same intersection where, just over a year ago, a fiery crash claimed the life of an ECHS student and his two brothers. Wesley Mulligan, Garrett Mulligan and Eli Hickox died when their pick-up truck collided with a tanker truck and both vehicles burst into flames on Nov. 21, 2013.
“Something must be done about this intersection. There have been four young lives lost in just over a year now and that is way too many lives cut short,” Kaye Nease wrote on the Rebel Regiment Facebook page.
“This breaks my heart,” added Melissa Morgan. “Our kids have lost so many friends.”
Morris was one of the marching band’s leaders, Leff said. Morris had been a member of the Georgia Music Educators District 1 honor band every year since seventh grade, and last year he was a finalist for the Georgia all-state band.
“Rest in paradise, young man. I’m sure you will be leading the saints with those drummer skills,” Amanda Longhini-Halbin wrote on Facebook.
Kimberly Jackson taught Morris in eighth grade at Effingham County Middle School. She recalled him being “a complete joy each day.”
Lori Middleton described Morris as epitomizing “the essence, character and beauty of what any mother would be privileged to call son.” Middleton said Morris was a friend of her children and she enjoyed his visits to their home.
“We will celebrate him and his life and the gift of the privilege to know him, to love him, to call him friend and to call him brother,” Middleton wrote. “The light of what you’ve left us in love will always burn bright.”