Jerrid Freeman, NASPA IV-W Regional Director
October 2, 2017
I write this month's message, behind in everything. Isn't it odd how one moment can change everything? How you can be one second away from joy and excitement and another from tears and pain? Two weeks ago Northeastern State University lost five freshmen in a single car accident. Our campus was turned upside down and the week we expected to have was completely altered. When the news came, I felt denial; as more information came in and my questions answered, I began to think about all that must be done. We started to assign tasks to staff and draft the appropriate response to all students impacted, the faculty and staff, the parents, and the communities. My mind raced as we tried to find the correct words and actions. I never thought about much more than the tasks at hand until we had a student-led prayer vigil, where I cried for the first time. The pain and disbelief I felt from the students was immense.
That evening we had a candlelight vigil, and again, the emotions were indescribable. I had the opportunity to address the community about the tragedy and support services available on campus. Nothing had prepared me for something like that, and I was unsure of the right words to say. The footage of the candlelight vigil was viewed by over 20,000 people in a few short hours (many more as the week progressed) as the news spread and people tried to understand the events and their own emotions. I received countless texts, emails, and notes from friends and colleagues and was grateful for the distraction from all of the other emotions we were all feeling. Through the course of the next week, we talked with parents, handled logistics, and attended funerals. The campus moved at a very different pace that whole week.
Then the next weekend we celebrated our homecoming weekend. As usual, it was a time of excitement and special events--yet the memories and grief of the week prior remained. I still shed tears every time the students are mentioned, even as we all are moving forward with our own lives, knowing these students' lives and deaths have altered the path forever.
I share this story to emphasize that life is precious. Each of us are going through challenges that no one knows anything about. Keep perspective on the lives of others. Give grace to those around you, and give credit to the efforts of someone who may be well intentioned but still falls short. Rejoice in your own success and revel in the joys of others. There is no one in this world who has everything figured out, we are all a work in progress.
These students' passing was a tragic reminder to love and care for one another. We are all we have. We are all broken individuals trying to be the best we can be in a messed up world. I am thankful for the life I get to live, the friends I have, the colleagues who work beside me, and those who push me to be better. Thank you to my NASPA family for all your support and the grace you have provided me. I hope we can continue to be a light for others who have similar experiences on their own campus, in their own lives, and in the crises across the globe.
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