STILLWATER — Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis has referred to the school’s annual homecoming parade as being “probably one of the most wholesome, happy events in the country.”
And it was during the 2015 parade that a wholesome, happy kid was attacked by a total stranger.
While his dad was at work, while his mom assisted in the set-up of a tailgate lunch near Boone Pickens Stadium, and while his brothers were elsewhere, then-12-year-old Alleyn Campbell was among the parade viewers massed at the southwest corner of Main and Hall of Fame streets. He was there to watch the marching bands, and he was there when Adacia Chambers drove her Hyundai Elantra into the crowd — killing four and injuring about 40.
Alleyn was among the final wave of people who were struck by the car. He was thrown over the hood and onto the windshield. He sustained head and right-shoulder injuries, along with terrible leg injuries. He was in a wheelchair for two months, and for several additional months he used a walker and then a cane.
On April 22, 2003, Alleyn, Brandon and Collen Campbell were the first triplets born in Stillwater. In January 2017, Alleyn (whose name is pronounced “Allan”) was in a Payne County courtroom to provide his victim impact statement before Chambers was given concurrent life sentences on four second-degree murder charges, along with 39 concurrent 10-year sentences on assault charges.
Now a 16-year-old junior at Stillwater High School, Alleyn remembers that he and Chambers made eye contact in the courtroom, but there was no spoken exchange.
Chambers was 25 at the time of the crash. State law dictates that she will be 73 before she becomes eligible for parole. On Thursday, she will be served a Thanksgiving lunch in the cafeteria of her residence for the last 1,031 days — the Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud.
At the same time in Stillwater, Alleyn joins his brothers and parents — mom Collett and dad Maury — for an annual Campbell family outing. Every Thanksgiving, they work as volunteers at a community meal event.
There are no lingering effects from the concussion Alleyn sustained four years ago. His shoulder has healed. He is scheduled for one more surgery on his damaged left leg but says he doesn’t dwell on the tragedy of Oct. 24, 2015.
He says he is determined to be a happy guy who harbors no bitter feelings. He says he is thankful for his family and his friends in the Stillwater High School marching band.
“I keep it pushed out of my mind,” Alleyn said of the parade crash. “If my friends bring it up, I’ll be like, ‘Yeah, I got hit by a car.’ If it’s a new friend, I’ll give some details. But for the most part, I don’t really think about it that much.”
He’s more focused on his role as a tuba player in the SHS band’s halftime performance when the unbeaten Stillwater Pioneers take on the unbeaten Bixby Spartans for the Class 6AII football championship on Saturday, Dec. 6.
Collett Campbell remembers this message from her son as he recovered from his injuries: “I’m going to live my life. I’m not giving up band. She (Chambers) is not going to keep me from doing what I want to do.”
“This experience has changed Alleyn,” Collett said. “He was always compassionate toward other people, but even more now. He has talked with other people — adults and kids — to help them get through whatever they’re dealing with.”
A little girl witnessed the parade disaster, Collett shared, and thought Alleyn had been killed. After she arrived home, the girl sketched a picture of him and included angel’s wings. When Alleyn learned about her sketch, he met with the girl. He wanted her to see that he survived and would thrive.
An Oklahoma City boy was a pedestrian in 2016 when he was injured by a car. He struggled during the aftermath. Alleyn and the boy met at Main Event in OKC, sharing several hours of talk time.
“(Classmates) were jarred by what happened, but I think they were surprised by my attitude toward it,” Alleyn said. “When I went back to school, I went in with a beaming smile. People would say, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I think it made people feel better about it.
“I didn’t want them to baby me, like I was traumatized. I was like, ‘I’m still the same. I’m just in a wheelchair.’ Instead of ‘why me?’, I’ve tried to turn this into more of a positive thing.”
Taylor Collins also has a special bond with Alleyn as a result of the 2015 homecoming crash.
Collins was an Oklahoma State student and a Pistol Pete mascot who walked the entire parade route that day. When the crash occurred, Collins and his sister were having a snack at a nearby bagel shop. He drove his Ford truck to the corner of Main and Hall of Fame, where he was drafted into service as a first-response civilian.
“You don’t think twice in a situation like that. You just react,” Collins recalls. “So many people were stepping up to help.”
Alleyn was lifted onto the bed of the pickup, and Collins drove him to Stillwater Medical Center. To make room for additional passengers during the drive, Collins removed the 52-pound Pistol Pete mascot head from his vehicle and handed it to a friend for safekeeping.
During OSU’s 2016 homecoming parade, Collins again was on Pistol Pete duty when he noticed Alleyn. Collins crossed the street for a reunion and a hug.
Collins is a Salina, Texas, native who graduated from Oklahoma State with a construction engineering degree. He resides now in Dallas and still occasionally communicates with Alleyn and Collett.
“Alleyn is an awesome kid,” Collins said. “He has handled all of this in the right way. He doesn’t feel sorry for himself. He’s got a great attitude about life, and he’s moving on.”
For years, Alleyn and his brothers were baseball teammates. Alleyn was a pitcher. Today, he is a member of his high school’s bowling team. For the Stillwater High School baseball team, Brandon is a catcher and Collen plays in the outfield.
Alleyn plans to attend OSU and aspires to become a member of the Cowboy Marching Band. He is leaning toward a career in music, perhaps as an audio engineer.
Reflecting on the horror of four years ago, Alleyn said, “It’s always going to be a part of me, but I just try to live each day like a normal, 21st century teenager.
“There were people who were killed or had way worse injuries than I did. This showed me that life can be taken away so easily. I’ve decided to stay positive.”