I didn't know this girl. But because of unthinkable tragedy and because of the morass of media, I now know a few terribly superficial things about her.
She was young. Beautiful. Smart. A future doctor. A future bride. Loved. Loving.
And the sick thing? The twisted thing? I know more, far more, about her end, the gruesome details of her departure, than I do about who she was.
It was the week before her wedding. And I have no idea what was going through her head, but I can hazard a guess. I imagine she was coasting on anticipation and adrenaline. I imagine she was so happy she couldn't sleep. I imagine her mind flitted back and forth between flower arrangements and lab work. I imagine that she was counting down the days. The hours. The minutes even. This is what I imagine because I have been there.
I imagine that she had a long list of things to get done before she could press pause. And stop. And, momentarily, walk away from her elite education, and walk down an aisle towards her new and fabled beginning. Towards a man she loved. Towards the promise of family. Towards her future. I imagine that on that day it all ended, she was working hard, the picture of focus and devotion and discipline. I don't know. None of us does. But this is what I imagine because I have been there.
I didn't know her and I ache for those who did. But I do know that when I see her lovely, youthful face splashed across the screen, my heart breaks. I do know when I see the image of the diminutive creature clad in kelly green, clutching a stack of books, marching unknowingly towards her end, I start to shake. I do know that every time I hear another cruel detail (that a fire alarm was tripped, that her clothes were hidden in ceiling tiles, and her remnants in a wall), I get a pit in my stomach and want to cry. I do know that. I do know that pieces of her were found on the day that was supposed to be her wedding day and that she should have been ensconced in some room with family and friends sipping champagne, bubbly with excitement. I do know that she was supposed to be safely tucked away somewhere, waiting to step into an ethereal white cloud of a wedding dress. I do know this.
But for her, it was all over before it had a chance to begin.
I do know that my sisters and I spent a collective twenty-six years on that campus, working hard, playing hard, dreaming of futures we foolishly assumed would unfurl. I do know that my older sister attended medical school there and very likely spent hours in that building. Or even that lab.
I do know that, on that campus, I spent moments alone, magical ones, lost in a fit of academic abstraction. I do know that in those moments, I felt utterly safe, poetically protected from the real world and its inchoate evils. I do know this.
I do know that my baby sister still lives there. Blocks from where this tragedy transpired. I do know that there are police swarming the campus, looking for answers. I know this because my sister told me. And because the news anchors told me. I do know that my sister is being strong and stoic and sophisticated. I do know that she is tough. I do know that she is rattled, but that she will snake through the maze of law enforcement towards class, towards the future.
I did not want to write this post because writing this post means that this actually happened. That a beautiful and young soul was brutally stolen from a world that I insist on believing is better than this.
But it did happen. It did.