Tuesday night, UM defensive lineman Bryan Pata was shot dead outside his apartment complex, less than a week after senior John Warnecke’s car hit a train, a month after freshman Erik Swanson died in Miami Beach, and three and a half months after sophomore Lee Weisbrod was struck by lightning.
And that’s only this year. Turn the clock back further, and you’ll see the stories of Ashley Kelley, Braden Ray and Chad Meredith, who were run over, fell off the top of Rosborough, and drowned, respectively. Each death was, and still is, a sobering, shocking and brutally honest reminder of how fickle our lives really are.
The fact that they were young only compounds the tragic element. Add to this the fact that most of these deaths could have been prevented, and it’s easy to feel frustrated, even angry at a world in which this could happen – especially for those who’ve experienced loss directly.
The inevitability and finality of death has always had a powerful effect on our collective psyche since the dawn of mankind. Both a fascination with, and desire to escape, death is reflected in cultures around the world, both ancient and modern. For as long as people were dying, people were trying to figure out how to cope, how to make sense of it all. The Pyramids at Giza, the Taj Mahal, Lenin’s Mausoleum and the field of cryonics (not to be confused with cryogenics) would not exist but for the incredible hold death has on our minds.
So it’s easy to see the shockwaves spread when death hits so close to home, as it has in all the aforementioned cases. As those close to the deceased grieve – the healthiest thing to do following a loss – the university community must come together in solidarity, recognizing the fact that death affects us all.
And every time a young man or woman died at the university, our community has always pulled together both in memory, and to look to the future. Vigils were held, memorials were erected, and in some cases, resolutions were passed in the hopes of not only making sure these people are never forgotten, but to hopefully prevent similar tragedies from happening again.
John Warnecke and Bryan Pata are no exceptions. As we mourn these two men, it is vitally important – not just for those in mourning, but also everyone in the community – to not dwell on the past. Remember these men for who they were, and the lives they lived, but also look to the future.
And always, always enjoy the life we’re fortunate enough to still have – because if there’s something we can learn from these sudden tragedies, it’s that life comes at us fast, and we’re only guaranteed the moment. So let’s make the most out of it. Starting now.