So, life. It keeps going.
At work this week, the powers that be trotted all of the kids out to the gym for an assembly on bullying, which I initially thought was going to be super cheesy, just like the Coke presentations of my youth*. Instead it was one of those things that is so sad it leaves you feeling hollow for the rest of the day.
The presentation was part of a project called Rachel's Challenge. Rachel was a girl who was killed at age 17 in the Columbine shootings. Weird that none of my students knew about Columbine. It was such a huge deal, but now it's just the distant past.
Rachel's father was the presenter. He talked about finding Rachel's diary and essays she had written about her views on life, on how people should be kind and refrain from judging others without knowing the full story. Idealism. It actually reminded me a lot of myself as a teenager - I was super idealistic, really did try to be nice to everyone. I wanted to grow up to help refugees and work for Amnesty International...
Anyways, this project, Rachel's Challenge, outlines tenets for living based on her writings, and it's a wonderful concept. Be kind, give second chances, choose positive role models... Great stuff, and it was great for our students to hear. Something about the message coming from "beyond the grave" seemed to really strike a chord for a lot of them.
The footage they used was just gut wrenching. The thing that almost broke me was the video montage of her growing up, starting with videos of her at the same age my daughter is now. It was so so sad, to see her father up there, knowing that he has given this presentation a million times, and that every time he's reliving and remembering her loss. And while I'm sure he gets solace knowing that this message of peace has been spread all over the world in his daughter's name, I'm also sure he'd rather she had the chance to grow up and create her own legacy.
There was some talk in the teachers' lounge about destiny, and maybe this girl was meant to die so that this project and her message could spread throughout the world. One student told me he thought Rachel was a prophet, because of her prolific writings. I just keep thinking - here was a person who has been suspended in time at the height of idealism. She is forever seventeen in the minds of everyone knew her and who hears about her. But if those terrible, evil boys hadn't shot her in cold blood, she'd be my age today. She could have become "great", or maybe she'd have shed some idealism. She could have a family. She could have a blog. She could play on her iPhone too much. She could be stressing about how messy her house is. She could be alive.
I don't believe people are "meant" to die violent deaths. I don't believe people are destined to suffer. I can't. I don't care how much good has resulted from that kind, beautiful teenager's death. It would be better if she was alive today.
* Coke presentations = Trot all of the kids to the gym and make them watch an "inspiring" multimedia presentation with trite truisms about life and how drugs are bad blended in with positive popular music. Designed for super short attention spans. All sponsored by Coke, so that the school feels less bad about picking corn syrup beverages at its population. Dunno how popular these were/are in other regions, but they were BIg Events when I was in high school.