AMESBURY — Construction work is underway on the new Sgt. Jordan Shay Memorial Lower Elementary School.
The new school is named after the fallen soldier who graduated from Amesbury High School in 2005 but was killed while on duty in Iraq in 2007.
Carey Shockey, 34, met Shay when they were both in fifth grade and said having a new school named after his friend makes him smile.
“I look forward to the first time that I hear some younger kid complain about having to go to the Shay School and all of the homework they have at the Shay School. That would really give me the biggest smile,” Shockey said.
“You really don’t think about the names of things in that way and you don’t expect it to be named after someone you knew in your lifetime,” he added. “So, the first time I hear that, it is going to be something I think he would get a kick out of. In fact, he would find it deeply funny.”
Shockey and Shay were both high school freshmen on Sept. 11, 2001, and shared a few classes that day.
“It’s surreal in a way that 9/11, which happened in our freshman year, has been this pivotal moment for the course of the rest of my adult life,” Shockey said.
“Jordan passed in 2009 and it kind of made a lot of us deal with it,” he said. “It was hard. It’s also strange to be taking on this role of protecting your best friend’s legacy when you are in your 20s.”
Shockey said Shay was working at Salisbury Beach State Reservation while also attending community college when he made a life-changing decision in 2006.
“He wanted to do something different and was feeling that his life wasn’t moving as fast as he may have wanted it to,” Shockey said. “We had both been antiwar throughout the course of high school, I would say.
“But he was looking around for ways to make his own way in the world. He decided that enlisting was the way that he wanted to go,” Shockey added. “We talked about it and it wasn’t necessarily the same choice that I would have made. But it was something that I supported. Jordan was also someone who did his own thing. That was one of the reasons why we became friends.”
Jackie Deoroki graduated from Amesbury High School in 2004 and said she essentially grew up with Shay.
“Our moms became friends at the bus stop,” Deoroki said. “He really was like a brother.”
Deoroki, 35, said having an elementary school named after one of her best friends is a bittersweet experience.
“This will keep his name alive and it really will live forever,” Deoroki said. “Kids will talk about him and know about him forever. It’s too bad we have to be naming something after him. But honestly I find it amazing.
“Obviously, me and my family and our friends will keep his name alive forever but it is really nice to know that the town will also keep that momentum going.”
Shockey saidhe sincerely appreciates the city’s commitment to honoring his friend’s legacy.
“It has been 12 years since he passed and 20 years since 9/11,” Shockey said. “And to know the fact that they’re still recognizing Jordan and that there’s still people making the effort to remember him is something that hits very deeply.”
Shay was simply “just the best guy you would ever know,” according to Deoroki.
“I miss him a lot every day,” Deoroki said. “I’d give anything for one more hug.”
Shay wasn’t always the best student, which makes naming a school after him even more personal for Shockey.
“I think that makes that even more prescient in some ways,” Shockey said. “He was a product of the town and was proud that he was from here. I also got to go see him go through a number of changes in trying to find himself and that is something I try to keep close, too.”
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.