SLIDELL, La. -- Many in Slidell mourned the loss of a beloved high school teacher and guidance counselor Monday who was killed with her husband in a motorcycle crash over the weekend.
According to Mississippi State Patrol, Carrie and Sam Speer were killed on I-55 near McComb, Miss., on Saturday. Sam was driving, and investigators said he tried to merge onto I-55 and cut into the left lane in front of a Toyota vehicle. The vehicle struck the Speers from behind, sending them off the interstate and into the cable barriers.
Both of the 57-year-olds were wearing helmets, but ultimately didn’t survive the crash.
Monday, news of the couple’s death spread quickly across Slidell, where Speer worked, at times, at two different high schools.
She was an English teacher at Northshore High School for more than a decade with Liz Maddox. But the two were friends from childhood.
“We were supposed to be friends for 30 more years. It wasn't supposed to end like this,” Maddox said Monday.
Maddox said she and Carrie would get together every Friday night. Last week, they met on Thursday instead, because Carrie and Sam were going out of town on a motorcycle trip.
Maddox last texted Carrie on Thursday before their dinner. She sent her an ecard that read, in part, “I hope we'll be friends until we die. And then I hope we'll stay ghost friends…”
Maddox had no idea she would have to say goodbye to her dear friend so soon.
“You hope it's a bad dream. It's just been very hard,” said Slidell High School Principal William Percy.
He hired Carrie Speer to teach English at Northshore High School when he was principal there in 1990. He got the chance to work with her again, and promoted her to guidance counselor years later at Slidell High.
“This has been a blow. It's kind of devastated the school,” Percy said.
The St. Tammany Parish School District sent six grief counselors to Slidell High on Monday to help students and teachers who were having a tough time with the news of Speer’s death.
Speer had planned to retire at the end of this school year, after 27 years with the district.
“I've just been numb today. I just keep thinking she's gonna walk through that door,” said fellow guidance counselor Liz Krieger.
She said Speer had a smile that would light up a room, and that Speer was the one everyone turned to for advice. Speer’s co-workers said Speer had the compassionate heart of an outstanding mother and the resolve of a fantastic teacher.
“No matter what was going on in your life, you could always expect that Carrie was gonna send you a note or a card to help you through whatever you were going through and it always did,” said Slidell High School English Teacher Donna Manetta.
“She pushed them. She wanted them to meet their responsibilities and she was very good at motivating kids,” Percy said.
But beyond the students that Speer inspired year after year, some who became English teachers because of Ms. Speer, Carrie and Sam were known for being great parents and nearly life-long loves.
Maddox said the two met in junior high school, started dating in high school, and their relationship lasted even though they attended separate universities.
“They did die together. I'm not sure they loved anything more than each other,” Maddox said.
The Speers are survived by two children, who also went to Slidell High School, and five grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.