NOBLE, Okla. – True friends are hard to find and it’s true that tragedy can bring you closer.
That’s the case for some high school seniors in Noble, who were rocked by tragedy at a young age.
“We just kind of clicked together and stayed by each other’s side,” said Carson Howlett.
He and his best friends are seniors in high school – but they’ve been together through a lot, like losing a good friend when most of them were in kindergarten.
“I think it embedded in them that not everything is forever,” said Jim Howlett, Carson’s father.
In 2007, 5-year-old Austin Haley was accidentally hit by a Noble police officer’s gunfire.
The officer was aiming for a large snake dangling from a birdhouse, but instead, the bullet hit Austin, who was in the woods behind his home.
The officer’s record was cleared, but the scars of that day remain for everyone.
“They just loved each other, great little friends,” Jim Howlett said.
Austin’s friends keep his memories alive 12 years later, painting their parking spots in honor of him. They also honor him in how they care for one another.
Howlett has been suffering from epileptic seizures for several years.
The first bad one was in the high school cafeteria. When he fell over and started making noises, Carson’s friends thought he was joking. They soon learned he wasn’t.
Howlett has had 11 seizures in the last two years, eight of them at school. His friends are always by his side.
“They took care of my son when I couldn’t be there,” said Jim Howlett.
These young men are stepping up to care for their friend even when it’s not pretty.
“Me and Seth just make sure he’s flipped over when he’s about to puke,” said Carson’s friend Gavin Yeager.
Carson’s dad says the boys don’t let anyone bully his son, even keeping an extra eye on him whle they’re all on the football field.
“They have big hearts,” said Noble High School football coach Greg George.
“To me, these are my heroes,” Jim Howlett said.
But that’s not how Carson’s friends think of themselves.
“It`s just part of the job, I guess,” said C.J. Vinson.
The boys are planning a surprise in Austin Haley’s honor at an upcoming football game.