This day last year, I saw a kid die.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The newspapers identified him as a 'man,' and I suppose he was, but being only 21-years-old, he was still just a baby who should have had his whole life ahead of him.

It was three days before my graduation from Wheaton College in Mass, and everyone was excited for the senior formal, especially because it took place every year at Rose Cliff Mansion in Newport Rhode Island. It's where they filmed the ballroom scenes in The Great Gatsby film and we were going to be able to sway on the same dance floor while a big band played. The night was going fine; I was the designated driver though, so I couldn't have too much fun with the open bar part. While taking a breather in between songs with some of my girlfriends, I was introduced to a friend of a friends date. He was a very handsome guy in a tux, who said it was a pleasure to meet me and kissed my hand before they went back on the dance floor for a slow song. I admit, was a bit dazzled, I mean who gives a kiss on the hand except for in old movies?

Around two a.m. on the streets of Newport, still in our gowns and tuxes, my group did not wind up at the main bar with everyone else but at some local one. We were still waiting for some students who didn't go to the dance to join us, and then we were going to move on. Just as I was leaving and walking out onto the main street, I finally saw my late friends walking towards us, but I looked away from their happy faces when I heard "FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT!" being chanted a few feet away. I looked over at the crowd of people, when suddenly a guy in a tux, I couldn't tell who (could it be a friend of mine? I thought) was pushed or lost his balance and began to fall backwards off the curb, waving his hands in a quick effort to catch himself.

Everything went into slow motion, when in reality I suppose it had to happen really quickly. Behind him, a crowded school bus was turning the corner onto the street we were on. My mind knew instantly what would happen, the twenty or so people outside must have known too, because there was a group intake of breath. I looked away for a moment. Heard the screaming! Looked back and saw the bus still driving, and about to parallel to me. A student that I knew ran along side the bus banging on it's side to stop it. College kids from Rhode Island College who were on their senior pub crawl were screaming and hanging out the windows of the bus. I slowly turned my head back to the fallen kid in the tuxedo, knew he had to be someone that I knew, someone I probably went to school with. Saw his decapitated body lying lifeless on the road. Suddenly everything went into real time again, I grabbed my friend who heard the noise but thankfully didn't see what I just saw and kept her from looking. A guy friend of mine threw up, and I knew I was going to faint, so I had to get me and my friend that I was holding out of there. Sirens were in the distance, people were crying and I didn't want to faint and make things worse so dragging my drunken friend, I drove to were we were staying. Waiting to find out who the guy was, forcing the images out of my head.

Finally my friend, who didn't even go to the dance but was questioned by the police after having had the bad luck of arriving just then and being even closer to the accident than me, sobbed over the phone and told us that it was a friend's date. My mind instantly registered that it was the handsome guy that I met that night, the one who kissed my hand.

For the next three days, the events played like a film scene on loop: meeting him, leaving the bar, FIGHT, falling, swinging bus, screams, body, then rewinding and playing back again. Needless to say graduation was a somber event for all three colleges involved, Wheaton, Rhode Island and Fairfield U, where he was about to be a valedictorian of his graduating class. I still think about him sometimes before sleep, seeing the images play again while thinking of the bright future that he would have had, his parents and girlfriend grieving somewhere, the familiar pain they were going through.

For the actual news story about what happened go to:

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