I went to Huntsville today and my first stop was the University of Alabama-Huntsville for this building.
Six months ago our close family friend was shot and killed in this building, the Department of Biological Sciences, where he was the head of the department. The shooting took his life and the life of three other professors. I don’t know why I wanted to go there. I waffled over the idea all week (you can ask JP). I kept thinking how silly it would be to drive all the way there to look at a photo in memory and see the building where it happened.
But a part of me knew I had to go just to pay my respects. I wanted to visit his wife and daughters, but when I called them earlier this week, I learned they’ve moved. I don’t blame them. I probably would too if something like this happened to me. What still gets to me is how she sounded on the phone.
I knew this couple from when I was 7 or 8 years old when we lived in the U.P. and he and my dad taught on campus at Michigan Tech. I remember all the parents throwing parties and this couple always asked my sister and I attend to even though we were kids. They loved kids and wanted kids of their own. I remember when they had their daughter and she was just 1 when we left Michigan and moved down to the south. They were both so bubbly and happy and so kind. When I spoke to her a few days ago, it was all different. I knew it would be, but hearing her voice… She just sounded broken and it sounded like every ounce of life had left her. It was hard to talk to her, I won’t lie.
It was hard being at the campus today. If you’ve never been there, it’s a beautiful campus. In front of this building is a huge reflecting pool with a fountain and it’s just gorgeous. There’s a little parking area where you can park your car and look at the reflecting pool.
I parked there, stared at the building and started to cry.
I couldn’t even go into the building. I mean, I didn’t think I’d be able to; I’m sure the security at that campus has gone way up since the shooting. But even being there, and knowing it happened less than a year ago, is just sad. The whole thing is sad and it hit my family in a way as if one of our own family members had passed.
It isn’t fair, and it’s never fair when something tragic like this happens. I’ll never be able to know what his wife and daughters, and the other victims’ family’s are feeling (obviously), but I do know that it’s a great loss and that department has lost a great professor as well as three others. At least I was able to pay some kind of tribute. He’ll be missed, but he’ll be remembered forever.