Ten years ago, I had the worst night of my life.
We had spent the evening celebrating our good friend Nick preparing to leave us for a few months as he headed off to New Zealand for a semester abroad. We drank a few beers, exchanged a lot of hugs, and prepared ourselves for the party awaiting in the fall for our final year at Central. Four of us would have a townhouse together and it was gonna be golden. Nick left the party and headed home to Grand Rapids to see a few more friends and to go snowmobiling.
I got a call in the middle of the night. Unfortunately,I was probably one of the first five people to know. My friend Zach told me. We had the task of letting everyone else know.
I called my dad first and broke down so hard. I asked him for the strength to tell people the terrible news. I know his heart broke too. Nobody wants their 22 year old to have to tell other 22 year olds that their friend is gone. That means that someone’s child is gone. And that’s not something that’s supposed to happen.
My girlfriend was devastated. I couldn’t tell her myself. Didn’t have the strength. Zach did that job for me. I handled the rest. We went over to the townhouse where so many others from our social circle lived. I still can feel the hate that is reserved for the messenger of bad news. Not mad at me, mad at what I told them. Mad at God for doing this. Mad at the world for being so viciously random.
The following weeks were a haze. Professors were understanding. We slowly made our way back to normalcy. One of us would randomly cry. One might get pissed off suddenly. Some of us could no longer stand to even see others in the group. Anger and rivalry that Nick could heal in life was made to fester in his passing. It’s weird what tragedy does to you. Your friends aren’t supposed to die when you are young. Or when you are anything but old cranky assholes bitching about the kids today from your rocking chair.
Eventually you stop noticing the anniversaries. You move on to different groups of people after you leave college. You don’t think about it for days, weeks, months. Then it hits. There’s a friend you should be able to call or email and check in on, but you can’t. There are others you could do the same with, but all you have in common now seems to be tragedy and who wants to discuss that.
Ten years came out of nowhere tonight, just like it did in 2003.