The loss of one person makes a big difference, especially in a small town.

Buddy Herron, 42, died early Tuesday morning after police say he stopped to help the driver of a wrecked Subaru Legacy on Highway 11. He was one of 185 residents of Helix, a small town surrounded by wheat fields 10 miles north of Pendleton. 

The Helix school, where three of his four children attend, has 171 students. The Herron family attends Helix Community Church, with a congregation of 45. Herron was one of nine volunteers with the Helix Rural Fire Department.

“I?think most people are probably dealing with the shock, just like I feel,” said Mac McCallum, church pastor, fellow volunteer firefighter and friend of Herron’s. “We know the details of what happened, but it’s hard to put it together and realize the finality of it because it was so senseless. That part is shocking.”

As members of the fire department, Herron and McCallum responded many times to vehicle crashes. McCallum said without doubt that Herron would stop to help if he saw a wreck.

He apparently did just that around 11 p.m. Monday, on his way to his job as a corrections officer at East Oregon Correctional Institution in Pendleton. From the crash site three miles north of town, Herron called 9-1-1 saying he’d been stabbed and his Nissan Frontier pickup had been stolen, according to Pendleton police. Herron died early the next morning at nearby St. Anthony Hospital. Police in Stanfield within two hours arrested Joshua Charles Weeks, 22, of Multnomah County, after a pursuit in which Weeks reportedly crashed the pickup. Weeks is being held in Umatilla County Jail on a murder charge.

McCallum said Helix is proud of Herron for doing the right thing and stopping to help, but the unexpected violence of his death is also leaving people confused.

“Everybody is asking, ‘Why? How could this happen? Why would anybody do that?’” McCallum said. “The noble thing he was trying to do was help somebody. Everybody’s proud of that.”

McCallum learned of his friend’s death Tuesday morning. He spent time that day with the Herron family, and also went to the Helix school, grades kindergarten through 12, to counsel students.

Superintendent Darrick Cope called the InterMountain Education Service District crisis flight team, which set up a safe room in the library. Students came in a few at a time all day for counseling. McCallum said staff encouraged them to write letters or draw pictures for the Herron family.

“Just like adults, they want to help, too,”?McCallum said.

He encouraged community members to do the same; letters may be sent to Helix Community Church, P.O.?Box 396, Helix, OR 97835, or dropped off at the church at 402 Harrison St.

Cope also called an assembly for grades five through 12. He let individual teachers speak to younger children in the kindergarten through fourth grade classrooms.

Cope said students were already aware of Herron’s death when they arrived Tuesday morning, but he wanted to get the facts straight. 

He didn’t want rumors flying around.

He reminded the students the Herrons are their friends and classmates. He told students to be there for the Herrons when they returned to school.

“I think students are obviously sad. It’s one of their own,” Cope said. “When I was talking, I was fairly emotional as well. It’s a tough thing to have to tell the kids. You have to do it. They have to know what’s going on.”

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