An ebook photo essay from Remembrance Week and the 25th Anniversary Memorial Service is available, free of charge, in iBook and PDF format: 25YearsPanAm103. An expanded gallery of photographs from Remembrance Week is accessible on the Portfolio Page and this link.
October 9, 2013. Syracuse University, New York.
My family has strong ties to Central New York. My grand-father lived in Elmira before moving to Cortland, where my father grew up. He attended the old military school in Manlius in the 1950s and visited Syracuse often before he met my mother a decade later. I’d been to the region on a number of occasions myself for swim meets against Hartwick and Utica while I was at Nazareth, for bicycle races in Rome, Auburn, and Cazenovia, and as a visitor to Hamilton College on several business trips with my father in the early 1990s. I’d driven through and around Syracuse, yet in spite of our many trips to the region and the city’s relatively close proximity to the Finger Lakes, I’d never been to the city in my life.
I had little reason to buck that lifelong trend just a few months ago. Even with her recent, ethereal reemergence, I saw the trip to Webster in August as the conclusion of the second chapter in Karen Lee Hunt’s strangely persistent presence in my thoughts.
The first played out almost 25 years ago when her image and details of her all-too-brief life haunted and inspired me in equal measure. As the years progressed, I resigned myself to the uncomfortable realization that first manifested itself next to her grave in 1989: I would never know more about her than I did on that cold day in April. Trivial in light of the bombing of Pan Am 103, the frustration of not knowing who she was exacerbated the intensity of my reaction to her death. Seeing how shaken I was at the time, several of my friends suggested that I shared some kind of connection or bond with her, a thought that I quickly rejected.
If I rejected a transcendent link between us, I believed that my only path to understanding my reaction to her death was through understanding who Karen was in life, but I limited my search to newspaper articles and a few questions directed toward mutual friends. It would take me over a year to contact the Hunts, and I was under no illusion that they would respond to my cursory gesture of support in 1990.
Thus, Karen Lee Hunt faded into a dim figure in the periphery of memory, reemerging every December 21 before slipping back into the chasm of years.
Until she leapt out of the past in May. Though decades separated me from the tragedy, I’d learned more about her in weeks than I had in almost 25 years. For the first time, I could kneel next to her grave with a an accurate picture of what she looked like in London. I’d read dozens of newspaper articles that I’d never been able to access before. The sources revealed more than I ever thought I’d learn, and I incorporated everything I could into the website I’d launched in August.
I brought several of the images with me when I visited her grave for the first time in 18 years. Yet with all of the material, the reflection, and the images, I still had few answers. The young woman my friends once described as extremely quiet was also depicted as outgoing, even bubbly, by other sources, a trivial yet interesting contradiction that revealed itself in the growing number of images in slide shows and websites. Karen appeared alternately kind, gregarious, pensive, and intense.
There were other sources, sources that could reveal more about Karen’s biography than what I’d been able to glean from old articles, memories, or the internet. The bombing of Pan Am 103 shattered my perception of the world in 1988; in response, I channeled the horror of the bombing in productive ways that ultimately allowed me to push beyond my self-imposed limitations. Twenty five years later, my newly piqued curiosity was similarly encouraging me to take embark on a new adventure.
Any reservations I had about attending Remembrance Week vanished the next day when I watched Terror and Tears before our opening faculty meeting and heard Karen’s voice for the first time.
The die was cast. I booked a room that night.
It’s important for people to know about her, too.
Robert Hunt’s words echoed in my mind a dozen times as I drove east on the Thruway. I’d read them for the first time on December 22, 1988, the day after the bombing of Pan Am 103, the day after Robert learned that his daughter was on that ill-fated flight. My life would change in unimaginable ways early the next morning, and while I once accepted that I would never learn more about the individual whose death shook my life so many years ago, all of that changed 5 months ago. I was driving almost 400 miles to spend several days at Remembrance Week, a commemoration of the lives of 35 people I never knew from a university I never attended in the heart of a city I’d never visited. I’d be a stranger among undergraduates and family members in an unfamiliar setting. This was quite possibly the strangest thing I’d ever done.
Yet it was the best chance I’d ever have to learn more about the woman whose tragic death bisected my life in 1988. I’d mourned her, attempted to push her out of my life, and found inspiration next to her grave. I knew the details of how the bomb disrupted Pan Am 103’s fuselage, scattering passengers, cargo, and debris through the night. They found Karen in a tiny garden at 69 Park Place in Lockerbie. She and her family gained an unwanted measure of national attention when her body was sent to a family in Massachusetts. They were an hour away from burying her in the wrong grave when the authorities intervened.
Two boxes in Syracuse University’s Archives held the potential to change the way I viewed the tragedy. After so many years of struggling with, commemorating, and mourning Karen’s death, I finally had the opportunity to celebrate her life. For the first time, I could potentially get a glimpse of who she was. At last, I could see Karen Lee Hunt the sister, daughter, friend, and college student. I’d always known that she was all of these, but it was difficult to discern them against the backdrop of the bombing. Now, she would no longer be defined as the victim of tragedy; at long last, I could commemorate her for who she was rather than how she died.
Or I could have just cancelled several classes and spent hundreds of dollars, only to come away empty-handed. I’d prepared myself for this possibility as well, but it was worth a shot.
It seemed odd to find a free parking space near the Manley Field House in the mid afternoon. I soon discovered why: several sources listed a distance of half a mile to campus. This was optimistic, and the roughly 20 pounds of camera and computer gear I carried conspired with Mount Olympus and my wretched lack of fitness to wear me down before I found my way to Marshall Street for a quick dinner.
It was an inauspicious beginning to my stay, and I hoped it wasn’t a harbinger of things to come.
The evening’s prime event was the public premier of Since: A Documentary, an independently produced work that chronicles the bombing and its effects on 3 families: the Cohens, the Lowensteins, and that Tsairises. Phil Furey began the project as a reflection on Suse Lowenstein’s Dark Elegy; the project soon took on a life of its own as he expanded the film’s scope to include the Tsairis and Cohen families, the trial and release of the bomber, and the political aftermath of over two decades of political wrangling.
I thought of a line Richard Newbegin shared with the Hunt family in his first letter: “I came, a complete stranger to the tragedy. I left, inexplicably, a part of it.” It was strikingly similar to things I’d written in my journal after visiting Karen’s grave in 1989, and I knew the feeling all too well. The tragedy of Pan Am 103 seemed to have a way of affecting people, even those with no direct connection to the passengers. It drew you in and became a part of you. Somehow, some of us became a part of it as well. Phil’s experience of being drawn into an event far removed from his own life resonated deeply with me.
Since was a powerful film, and the effect was amplified by the presence of the Remembrance scholars and Bob and Eileen Monetti, the parents of Pan Am 103 victim Rick Monetti.
I’d studied Pan Am 103 and its victims intermittently for a quarter-century, but in their presence, the tragedy took on a very different light. Just as seeing Karen Hunt’s grave in 1989 made a distant tragedy concrete, so too did the presence of family members . Their presence changed the mood and direction of the ensuing question and answer period, and in spite of my aching feet, I already had the sense that this would be a special visit.
The discussion ended after 9:30, and though I had a long walk back to the car, the evening’s beauty compelled me to capture some images of the Wall of Remembrance with the iconic Hall of Languages in the background.
I made one last stop in the quad. In a haunting gesture, the 2012 Remembrance Scholars set 35 seats in the quad; each seat was positioned to approximate the location of each of the 35 students on the plane. Each seat bore a number, as well as a list of good deeds done by students in the name of acting forward.
Hendricks Chapel served as a moving backdrop to the chairs. The quad was full of students even at 10. Four stood in front of one of the placards describing the scene. They were talking about the plane itself, which they described as an Airbus. Although I wasn’t sure how they’d react, I quietly said, “It was a 747, an early model.” They didn’t seem terribly upset at my interrupting. We talked for some time afterward as we stood in front of the empty chairs. It was remarkable to see how the loss of Pan Am 103 crossed generational boundaries, and gratifying to see how the university embraced and redefined an event that occurred years before the bulk of its students were born.
I had to admit that I’d been impressed with the school, the Remembrance Scholars, the evening’s program, and the students in general. I’d intruded on a moving and long-standing tradition as a stranger without any direct ties to the disaster, yet I felt strangely at home here on campus.
It was as if I was supposed to be here.
October 10, 2013. Syracuse University.
When I left Karen’s grave in August, I swore that I would attend at least one official commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Lockerbie air disaster. Though I’ve never been especially inclined to be bound by such commitments, I’d made it to Syracuse for the latter part of Remembrance Week, the university’s decades-old commemoration of the 35 lives lost on Pan Am 103. In 1989, a heartbroken Chancellor Eggers promised family members that “Your sons and daughters will be remembered at Syracuse University, so long as any of us shall live and so long as the university shall stand.” Families and friends gathered once more in April, 1990, to dedicate the Place of Remembrance which became a physical manifestation of that promise.
Every year, 35 students from Syracuse University and 2 from Lockerbie received scholarships in the name of those students and townspeople lost in the bombing. Institutional memories are short, however, and in the early 1990s, the Remembrance Scholars themselves organized what would become the modern incarnation of Remembrance Week. With each passing year, time further separated current students from those lost. Years, then decades passed. Yet students remembered.
I remembered. I remembered only too well. If Robyn Hunt’s sideshow reopened a dormant chapter of my life, the act of remembering reopened old wounds. The ache was tempered and less intense, but it was there nonetheless, reminding me of just how enduring the crash’s legacy was.
The archives would open at 9. While in part an act of commemoration, this trip was equally motivated by the opportunity to freely access materials from which I might glean some answers to 2 questions that had plagued me for years: who was Karen Lee Hunt, and why did her death strike such a chord within me? Hopefully, I would find some answers in the archives.
Pan Am 103 was my September 11th. I could simply leave it at that, but curiosity compelled me to dig a bit deeper.
I arrived early enough to find a parking space in front of the Bird Library, home to the archives which would open in a couple of hours. With some time in hand an uncharacteristically lovely light, I had a chance to shoot some more images on campus before I made my way to Marshall Street and Cosmos. We had some lovely places to walk to along the canal in Pittsford, but no college or university I’d been to had anything like the diversity of diners, coffee shops, and restaurants right off campus at Syracuse University. I’d only applied to smaller colleges in 1985 and ’86. The atmosphere and energy here made me wonder why.
Webster had taken on a new, haunting air when I drove through the village to visit Karen’s grave for the first time in 1989. The scenes seemed to radiate a hidden yet intensely personal history. As I wandered the brick sidewalk along Marshall Street, I was acutely aware of the fact that I was following the footsteps of the Syracuse students who boarded Pan Am 103 on December 21, 1988. No doubt they’d been here many times, yet this thought did nothing to spark the intense feelings I’d experienced at Jumonville Glen, Manassas, Gettysburg, Shanksville—or Webster. The students and vendors enmeshed me in a haze of sound and motion that prevented me from reflecting on my surroundings.
It was no loss. There were more pressing matters to attend to. The archives are on the 6th floor of the Bird Library. Archivists Cara Howe and Edward Galvin greeted me as I entered a room filled with boxes, newspaper clippings, and personal effects. This was it, my first opportunity to see materials written by the peers, teachers, and relatives of the victims. My quest started with the VPAF boxes, and it didn’t take long to find the original copy of the June, 1990 newsletter containing “Crime of Apathy.”
There was something immensely gratifying about conducting research with physical material in a major university library, especially when the material was so closely linked with such a meaningful event. This was the norm through the mid 90s. My research methods class in 1991 would have been infinitely easier had I postponed my masters degree by several years, yet I was glad that I gained an appreciation for conducting research the traditional way. Handling the documents, leafing through scrapbooks, and seeing some of the clothing gave me a sense of connection I could never find online. A sweater sat on a table near a soiled ball cap. One of the students had crafted her own version of “Life”; she misspelled “loose a turn” (years of teaching composition had ruined me), but I admired the hours of work and clever categories she had put into the game.
After so many years of seeing those aboard Pan Am 103 as victims, the items before me cast them as humans. It was what I’d hoped for. This alone made the trip worthwhile.
Now it was time to turn my attention to the material the Hunts donated to the archives. I’d avoided them initially, but after so many years, it was time to meet Karen.
Cara and Eward were patient and enormously helpful given the stress of the week, the press conferences, and the string of visitors yet to come. The Monetti’s were among the relatives who ventured in to talk or donate more material. Graham Herbert, the rector of the Lockerbie Academy whom I met briefly last night, entered the room as well. “Karen Hunt. I know her family well,” he said to me as I sifted through some of the letters sent to her family.
The archives held a wealth of information—I learned as much in a matter of minutes as I’d learned in decades, but it would take time to process, and I still felt as if something intangible was missing—not through the paucity of material, but rather that one detail that might have shed some light on an old mystery.
Journalists was beginning to descend as I left Cara and Ed to their tasks. I’d have more time to browse on Friday.
The Schine Student Center was but a short walk away. Posters of each of the victims were hung in the Panasci Lounge, which was eerily silent as dozens of students typed away on their Macbooks. The 35 students gazed out of their respective posters as their peers, separated by 25 years, manipulated technology unheard of in 1988. It was a little unsettling, perhaps as much because it reminded me yet again of how much of my life seemed to have slipped by. Many of those on the plane might have studied in this lounge in the spring of 1988. If there were echoes from the past here, they were muted by the quiet, rapid typing of hundreds of fingers.
I lingered a bit before each of the posters, trying to imagine each of them here, at home, or in London. A few students glanced at me before returning to their typing. No one raised their eyes when I set a camera on a tripod to snap a few photos of Karen’s poster.
With plenty of time to kill before the evening’s lecture, I enjoyed a pleasant lunch at a Thai restaurant before capturing more images on campus It was an uncharacteristically lovely mid-October day in Upstate New York. The only disappointment came in the form of the foliage, which I hoped would be more vibrant.
Two of the students I spoke with the previous night came over to say hello and exchange names as I took more shots in the quad. My sentiments were confirmed: I was truly impressed by this university and its students.
Just as I start packing up to move to the wall, a pair of women begin to wander among the chairs. One of them was Barbara Matthews, Kesha Wheedon’s mother. We exchanged smiles before I left for the Place of Remembrance.
Another photographer was taking shots of the wall. We talked for some time, and I learned that the young woman had performed in a play in Lockerbie to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the bombing. We were discussing photography and cameras when a pensive young woman wandered up to the wall. She lingered over the names, asked questions about Friday’s ceremony, and listened to us as we related some of the details of the crash and the students on board. Her earnest nature and reverence for those who died years before she was born moved me. I knew I’d see her again tomorrow.
The evening’s activity was a panel discussion on the role of the media in the immediate aftermath of the crash. Journalism was one of my interests when I entered college. I’d taken several courses on newspaper writing and politics in the media in my senior year, and taught a class on feature writing a few years ago. The images from that night, the flames, the distraught parents, the screams were indelibly and horrifically branded in my memory. The often cruel, haphazard way in which families and students were treated on December 21st served as a harbinger of indignities yet to come.
It was an interest I’d shared with Karen Hunt who was, like me, an English major. That connection was enough to make her death intensely personal for me.
I had one more stop to make before the lecture. I’d long heard stories about the Remembrance Quilt sewn in the late 1990s. I’d worked with the Name Project as part of the AIDs Awareness Committee at the University of Scranton in 1992 where I saw firsthand just how moving the hundreds of panels of name-bearing cloth were. Though smaller, each panel of the Remembrance Quilt contained references to, and frequently artifacts from, each lost student’s life.
Hendricks Chapel was empty and silent when I entered. The quilt sat in a place of honor to the left of the altar at the front of the chapel. I’d already seen each of the individual panels online, but virtual images couldn’t begin to convey the power of seeing the entire quilt hanging before you.
It becomes infinitely more moving when you think about the personal items, the effects, material, clothing and mementos, stitched into the fabric suspended before you. There was pocket made from one of Karen’s shirts. A copy of “Song for Karen” sat within. Another panel had fabric purchased by a mother and daughter for the quilt they would never have a chance to sew together. There was part of a denim jacket worn by one of the victims on the night of a crash, poems, photographs, and all of the small trinkets and details that make Pan Am 103 part of a shared tragedy.
The panel discussion was revelation as the journalists and professors discussed the pressures and ethical dilemmas facing reporters and the public in 1988. One broached the topic of PTSD among journalists. Those who arrived in Lockerbie in the days immediately after the crash were confronted with horrors of unspeakable proportions, shocked residents, and grieving parents. The ethos of the day was such that reporters were to “shake off” the shock and close their minds to the chaos and sorrow around them. For a moment, my memory turned back to the fall of 1989 when our Newspaper Writing professor showed us an awful, self-congratulatory film entitled, If It Bleeds, It Leads. The film related the dispassionate way a news team covered a drowning, with gloating journalists reveling in their ability to block out the suffering and human connection to capture the story. It’s what the people want, they claimed. My teacher and I often had heated exchanges about ethics and compassion for weeks afterward; she was an advocate of the kind of coverage being panned before me. It’s was much too late to feel vindicated now.
Truth be told, the coverage of Pan Am 103 was the final blow to my aspiration to become a journalist.
But there were a number of deeper, more telling revelations that resonated with me. Nothing new or groundbreaking—rather, they were confirmations of many of the things I’d been thinking about these past few months.
We were poorly prepared for the shock and tragedy of the disaster in 1988, as a nation, and as a culture. Families were left to fend for themselves in spite of the horrific scale of the event.
When reporters asked family members “How do you feel,” they weren’t aware of the fact that many family members were numbed by the shock of loss. One reporter on the panel notes that sudden loss and grief can have a physical effect on the body. “Two AM, December 23rd, 1988” I thought to myself. It might have been odd to feel that pain for someone I never met, but the physicality of loss was quite normal after all. It provided no meaningful comfort, but at long last I began to feel that if the intensity of my emotions following the bombing were unexpected, they weren’t especially unusual.
Several panelists mentioned that coverage of Pan Am 103, outside of Syracuse, was remarkably short-lived. This corroborated my own experiences as I remembered the frustration of trying to discuss the bombing in the late 80s and early 90s. The coverage reflected both public indifference and the government’s active resistance to pressure from the families. For the second night, the audience learned just how callous and hostile the government was to grieving friends and relatives. The aftermath of the Lockerbie Air Disaster was a case study in how a to handle a cataclysmic incident in the worst way possible.
It was a sobering, powerful evening.
October 11, 2013. Syracuse University.
Several yellow roses crafted from fleece adorned Karen Hunt’s patch on the Remembrance Quilt. Taking the cue, I bought a yellow rose last night. I planned to leave it next to her name when I got to campus.
Sunrise cast a soft, diffuse light on the Remembrance Wall the next morning. Several families had already left flowers for Alexander Lowenstein and Alexia Tsarais. Alexia’s name was just below Karen’s—the two were sisters in the reformed Pi Beta Phi, both were intelligent young women, and both shared a love for photography. Alexia aspired to be a photojournalist, and her family continued to support young photographers who use their talents to promote social justice.
So much talent rained down on Scotland that night. What could they have done if they had been given the chance to live?
What a waste.
The rose was already losing its petals when I placed it next to Alexia’s. I turned to go, then I saw it—a perfect convergence of angles, colors, and light at the corner of the memorial wall. I had everything set up in a couple of minutes, framed the shot, and snapped an image of the rose beneath Alexander Lowenstein’s name. It was the sort of image that seemed to encapsulate my sentiments at that moment.
The archives were open to the public for a second day, and I hoped to find something intangible, something I’d missed yesterday.
Cara and Edward are as gracious as ever and a bit more laid back after yesterday’s rush.
My father, a bookbinder, instilled (beat) an appreciation for archival preservation in me when I was young, and Cara and I had a pleasant conversation about some of the techniques used to protect and save historical documents. There were probably very few people who would be enthusiastic about acid free paper, wheat paste glue, and Mylar photo pockets.
I’d just started my search when Kenneth Jones entered the room with more memorabilia. Christopher Jones was one of the more colorful students aboard Pan Am 103. An English major, he’d joined his girlfriend, Erica Elefant for the fall semester in London that fateful year. She’s opted to spend some more time in Europe in spite of his efforts to lure her on to Flight 103.
There was no way to describe how poignant it was to finally be able to connect families and faces to the stories I’ve been familiar with for so many years.
The goal was to create a list of material for duplication, which made what happened next all the more striking. On a whim, I pulled out a folder of letters I’d overlooked yesterday. It was as nondescript as the rest, and the name had never appeared in any articles. There was no compelling reason to read the contents.
I came to the archives looking for answers to questions that had haunted me for years. For the first time through a letter written by a friend over two decades ago, I found many of the answers I’d sought for years.
Yesterday I had a chance to view part of a video some of Karen’s friends put together a few weeks after the bombing. The tape, recently converted to DVD, consisted of video clips interspersed with still images. A portion of the tape was set to Cat Steven’s “On the Road to Find Out.” The commotion in the room made it difficult to hear the song and bytes of conversation, but the still photos amplified what I’d felt before.
Far from providing a discrete portrait of who Karen Hunt was, the photos left more questions than answers. Her high school principal described her as bubbly and outgoing, while a note about her in a newsletter from the CIS Corp, where she worked the during the summer of 1988, praised her for bringing a “breath of the exuberance of youth” to the company’s word processing department.
As I’d recounted before, friends who knew her from high school described her as “extremely quiet.” I’d seen hints of both traits in other photos, but the disparity was even more pronounced in the images on the tape, where Karen was alternately friendly, intense, withdrawn, and even taciturn.
It was hardly unusual to be all of these things at once, particularly when the individual was a 20 year-old college student navigating the divide between vastly different phases of her life, but the disparate expressions gave lie to the cliché about pictures and a thousand words.
Written by a close friend from Day Hall, the 8 page letter finally lent a deeper context to the images. Karen was outgoing and fun-loving, often joining her classmates for evenings of dancing followed by conversations that would last into the night. She was an intuitive and kind person who cared deeply about her friends. She was emotive, yet she often kept her feelings hidden. The author recounted a powerful, intense scene from a previous semester that I won’t describe here, but the mood and setting, beautifully described, finally gave me a sense of who Karen Lee Hunt was in life.
I’d always known that Karen and I were very different people, but the letter’s details confirmed something I had intuitively believed from the start—we had much in common as well, and those commonalities extended beyond shared ages, majors, and interests.
I finally had answers. I finally knew why this meant so much to me.
Overwhelmed by what I’d found, I thanked Edward and Cara again for their patience and generosity and left to find a quiet place to be alone for a few minutes.
As it turns out, I walked past the club Karen once frequented with her friends on my way to lunch. The name and the structure had changed over the last 25 years, and though I wasn’t aware of the connection, the area seemed to take on a slightly different cast in light of what I’d just read.
The Rose-Laying ceremony was only a few hours away, and I was anxious to get a good vantage point before the crowds arrive. I’d planned to shoot stills with both cameras while capturing a few snippets of video with the D7000. To that effect, I had the Gitzo with me; it was a deceptively massive-looking tripod with the legs extended, massive enough that one of the organizers asked me to place the rig behind the parents’ chairs in the press area for the ceremony.
I couldn’t believe the level of serendipity at work, for thought I’d miss some shots of the parents, I couldn’t ask for a better vantage point for the ceremony itself.
Relatives began taking their seats as hundreds of students and press gathered on either side of the walk to watch the ceremony. Georgia Nucci, Chris Jones’s mother and author of the original letter that eventually sparked me to action in 1990, took her seat. Barbara Matthews, whom I saw touching Karen’s name on the wall earlier, Kenneth Jones, and the Monetti’s all sat before the wall of names.
Of the parents, Bob and Peggy Hunt were among the closest to Syracuse. There was a distinct possibility that they’d attend the ceremony, and given that I’d recently seen both interviewed in Terror & Tears, I knew I’d likely recognize them. Should I approach them? If I did, what would I say? It took me over a year to reach out to them the first time, and I was only able to do so because I could focus on a specific emotion in response to a letter conveying their frustration with the public and government’s tepid response to the bombing. How could I describe Roses for Karen to them, or my presence in Syracuse, for that matter.
The questions were no longer academic when Robert Hunt joined the other parents. I didn’t for the life of me know what to do.
A bagpiper played a dirge that drew me out of my thoughts. The crowd grew steadily as we approach 2:00. Following a moment of silence, 2 lines of Remembrance Scholars approached us to the tune of “Scotland the Brave,” each of them holding a white rose. Another pause, silence, then Remembrance Scholar Amanda Kullman approached one of the two microphones to welcome us to the ceremony. At 2:03, the chimes of the Crouse College of Fine Arts began the mournful count—35 times, once for each student aboard Pan Am Flight 103.
Graham Herbert led the opening prayer, concluding with the Gaelic Blessing as the peals stopped:
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may your God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Each Scholar approached one of the two microphones and shared a vignette about the life of each student she or he represented before placing a rose on the wall. The ceremony was brief, affecting, and beautiful in its simplicity.
I saw Cara after the end of the ceremony. She confirmed my suspicion that the man I saw before me is Robert Hunt. I briefly toyed with the idea of talking to him, but quickly shelved the thought. This wasn’t the time, and he was gone before I finished my inner debate. I had no idea what I’d say to him. One day, perhaps.
The scholars and relatives wandered off to the convocation. Much as I wanted to join them, I had a wedding to shoot tomorrow and a 6 hour drive ahead of me. As I lingered at the wall to capture some images of roses on and flowers, I saw the young woman I spoke with last night. One of her neighbors in Maryland was parent of a victim, though she didn’t know this for years. In one of the most poignant moments of the weekend, she approached the wall, touched the student’s name, then prayed silently in the shadow of the memorial.
I couldn’t think of a more appropriate parting image for, or summation of, those 3 remarkable days.