Updated: Aug 22, 2019
Aug. 19, 2019
On Friday morning, I woke up and went to class. I parked at the Swanson Center and walked to the Campus Minister's office. On Friday morning, I made it to school. On Friday afternoon I sat down at lunch and laughed with friends but soon learned that the Mass Communications Department was mourning. The news hit me like a baseball bat in my gut.
On Friday morning, an 18-year-old mass communications major on her way to her first Friday of college was killed in a car accident. Her name was Anna MacKenzie Whitlock. I didn't know her well, in fact I only met her in passing two times in our public speaking class. I knew she was a brown headed girl, she seemed quiet, but she was sweet. After the initial shock wore off I settled down into the realization that we are one down in number. We Piedmont, we the Mass Communication department, we my public speaking class.
It isn't fair. Teenagers shouldn't die. In late night conversations with my friends who should have been busy planning for the first edition of the Roar and getting last minute details of the Four ready for this week, we found ourselves talking about how to memorialize Anna. We found ourselves talking about how we could pull together to send flowers or a donation. We found ourselves talking about making sure the mass communications department was represented at the visitation and the funeral. We didn't know her well, but once you're apart of the mass communications department you are apart of us forever. It's a family.
As we learned about Anna while we wrote our editorial in her memory, our hearts broke again. This time not so much because she was a kid and no sense can be made out of a child losing their life so senselessly. This time our hearts broke because Anna would have been an amazing edition to our close knit family across the pond. She was the sweetest person her friends had ever met. She loved superheroes and she was an actress. Her mom said her four days at Piedmont were the happiest of her life. She belonged here. She was accepted here. That's how we all feel in this department. Learning all these things made her even more one of us than she already was.
She deserved the joy of seeing her byline on her first published article. She deserved to hear her voice on the radio. She deserved to see herself reading the news off of the teleprompter. She deserved to get to know our professors and find her group within the department. She deserved to be in on the jokes about Dr. Dennis being the most likely to crash the Piedmont van and walk into Dr. Tingle's office and get mom advice like we have all done so many times before. She deserved to experience the stress of a 3a.m. speed writing session at Waffle House the night before a hard deadline. She deserved the world.
It has been an extremely emotional weekend and I know I can't even begin to grasp the pain that this is causing her family and friends. The ripple effect that her death will create will know know ends. Here it has made us drive more cautiously, say I love you more, and we have been reminded how blessed we all are on this side of the pond especially to have fellow students that are such good friends we consider each other family, to have professors that love us and that we love just as much. Life is a cruel trick sometimes and in these days we have a painful reminder that the good parts of it can slip away all too quickly.
I find myself angry with God because a young lady who had so much future in front of her will be laid to rest tomorrow instead of going home from our Public Speaking class to work on papers and talk about her day. I have a hard time reconciling a merciful God with a loss like this, but it's hard not to see the beautiful chaos in the world of around us that obviously have God's fingerprints all over them. I know Anna saw that.
I've lost more people in my life than I care to count, and the truth of it is, I don't have the right to say I lost Anna. She wasn't really on my radar until I learned she was gone. She had only been here for four days. I think that makes her even sadder. Her loss has rippled through this building and we have all been moved and hurt by it. Tonight and tomorrow we won't be there only as a show of respect from our department. I will be there because in some way we need closure too. Our hearts have been ripped wide open too.
I know well-meaning people tonight and tomorrow will be telling her family that she's in a better place, and that everything happens for a reason, but the reality is those words do precious little to replace the warmth of a loved one in our lives. I know from experiencing the loss of my dad that the best we can do is assure Anna's family that she was loved, and she was. For now, the best I can do is fulfill my purpose in the Mass Comm building the best I can, not just for me anymore, not for fun, but to honor the memory of Anna MacKenzie Whitlock. That's all any of us can do.