MCGEHEE, Ark. – People across the McGehee School District were left devastated after the sudden loss of their high school band director, Thomas Trigg and his wife, Janet.

According to Arkansas State Police, the two were killed in a car crash early Tuesday morning on Highway 165 in Chicot County.

For students and faculty at McGehee High School, Trigg made a major impact.

“He would believe in you even if you didn’t believe in yourself,” Chandler Hargraves, a senior in the school band, said.

Band members said their small, close-knit group was more like a family. Hargraves said he found a home in that family.

“These are the people you’re going to know the rest of your life,” Hargraves said. “They’re going to be here for you… when all the other friend groups that you’re going to have change, they’re going to be here.”

According to MHS Principal Justin Holt, Trigg graduated from McGehee High School in 1972. He returned to his alma mater seven years ago to direct the high school band, and he hoped to retire there someday.

“You get a tragedy, something unexpected like this to happen, and you can really see how strong a community is,” Holt said.

Jake McBride is the drum major in the MHS band. He and Hargraves both began their first year in band with Trigg and said it is hard to imagine ending their time in the band without him.

“I haven’t really thought about what band would be like without him,” McBride said. “Walking in here today, I don’t know what to expect.”

Holt and the band members said it was not just Trigg that played a major role in the school, but also his wife.

“You can’t begin to think that someone would do that willingly, for free, like she did,” Holt said.

Holt said Janet devoted herself to the band, just like her husband, but as a volunteer.

Students added that as soon as Trigg introduced her to band members, they would quickly learn to love her.

“The first day you’d walk into band, he’d tell you, ‘That woman right there, you’ll address her as mama Janet,’’ Hargraves said.

McBride agreed she became a true mother-figure to them.

“All the uniforms… she hemmed them herself,” he said.

Hargraves said he hopes the legacy of Trigg lives on beyond this group of students and faculty.

“I don’t want the band to die not knowing that he wasn’t just some other band director,” he said. “He was special.”

Hargraves and McBride said they were scheduled to play in a Christmas parade Thursday, and their Christmas performance this upcoming weekend. Band members and their parents met Wednesday night to discuss how to move forward without the Triggs.