Jeff Morris, Perham High School's head cross-country coach, didn’t want to believe that Charles Nord, who ran cross-country for Perham High from 2004 to 2006, died in a helicopter crash last week.
"My biggest thing was just waiting to hear confirmation that it was for sure (Nord), because I didn't want to assume that it was and then find out it wasn't, but it was pretty devastating," Morris said Sunday.
Before he coached Nord, Morris met him around the time he was in middle school, and from that point on, he knew he would be a good fit on the team someday.
"The kids just wanted to be around him," Morris said. "He had that just natural charisma that everybody was just attracted to and drawn to, and really for a coach, (it) made me realize that a team can be something more, that it would be like a family."
Morris remembered Nord as a strong, silent type — an attitude he says carried over when he joined the U.S. Army.
Perham joined the rest of the state flying their U.S. and Minnesota flags at half mast through the weekend into "It (the flag) was something he had took a lot of pride in, and it makes it that much more meaningful," Morris said. "It hits home, and I think it hits home for the people of Perham to know that they had somebody, one of their own, go out and serve the country the way he did."
Even after his death, Morris said Nord will be like a Yellowjacket who never left his nest.
"It's hard to realize that these are the kind of things that bring you back in touch," he said.