One of my classmates died on Monday.
Look, I’m not an asshole. I’m not going to sit here and pretend that he was one of my best friends or that I understand even half of what the people close to him are going through. But still, it hit hard. The accident happened on Monday night, and I remember getting the texts from my friends who were rushing to figure out what was going on, combing through the news for any updates. Hearing, finally that he’d passed away in the hospital. Thinking that it was a joke, because no, things like this don’t happen two months before graduation. Things like this don’t happen at random, in the middle of the night for no reason at all. Things like this just don’t happen.
As I’m writing this, there’s a part of me that’s still in denial. When I walked onto campus yesterday morning, I was surrounded by a sea of black. People from every grade level were sobbing into each other’s arms, leaving crumpled tissues scattered across the quad like snotted-up roses, and I managed to hold it together up until a friend of mine saw me in the hallway towards the beginning of second period and silently held out his arms for a hug. I broke down like a baby, bawling into his jacket while his own shoulders shook, asking how something like this could happen to someone like him. Like us. Asking myself how a person can suddenly go from living, breathing, existing, to being replaced by a vase of flowers and a ‘Sorry for your loss’ card on top of a desk.
Young people think they’re immortal. It’s one of those things that you’re never aware of until a tragedy of this caliber happens. This kid that’s been more or less a constant in my life for the duration of my high school career is gone now, and that just doesn’t seem possible. I keep forgetting on accident, figuring that the desk a row behind me is vacant because he’s come down with the flu, or something like that. Dumb, mundane stuff.
This isn’t about me. It really, really isn’t. But I feel obligated to put out that I’m not great at dealing with grief. I’ve lost a lot of people, old and young and close and not, and my attempts at coping have ranged from laughing it off to locking myself in the bathroom and crying for 13 hours. Basically, I’ve become accustomed to dealing with loss alone, to the point where I only really know how to bottle my emotions up and toss them into the sea.
But yesterday, I saw hundreds of kids in various stages of shock and desperation and anger and sorrow, and I realized that I wasn’t alone. See, the truth is, my community has beyond blown me away with their response to this tragedy. My high school is now constantly being harassed by the press, and the spread of this story across national news has invited all sorts of horrific commentary on the loss of one of our best. There are assholes–absolute fuckwads–out there who somehow have the audacity to say that this death was somehow the victims’ fault. I’ve seen multiple references to the Darwin Awards. It’s enough to make anyone sick, and I sure as hell am mad, but seeing the network of support that my peers have formed for one another is mind-blowing, because who ever could have guessed that teenagers could be so damn smart and empathetic and kind?
I’ve barely slept 3 hours total over the last 3 days. I’ve cried more often than not, and I’m honestly not even sure why anymore; I’m pretty sure it’s just a reflex. I’ve listened to countless awkward attempts at empathy from school administration, and countless heartbreaking testimonials from teachers and students. But if there’s anything positive to take away from this, it’s that you’re never alone in grief. Don’t let yourself mourn alone.