Monday, September 21, 2009

The Things I Never Expected

by Emily May Anderson

I was teaching class this afternoon, and about halfway through the class period, I heard a helicopter fly over. Then again, and again, circling low and slow and very loud. I couldn't talk over it, so I stopped for a moment, then when I could make my voice heard, I said "What is going on?" I thought it was a rhetorical question, but the students (or most of them at least) already knew. A freshman student had disappeared on Saturday night/Sunday morning after leaving a fraternity party; the campus police, and other law enforcement officers were looking for him. Apparently the university has an emergency warning system for things like this, and most all of my students had received either email or text messages about it. So the helicopters were circling, and there were a lot of police officers outside (we could see them through the window); it was really rather disturbing. I found out tonight that maintenance people found his body today, two buildings away from where we have class, apparently dead from a head injury sustained in a fall. Here is a link to an article. It sounds like it's really just a tragic accident, but it's really sad, and one of those things that I know I'm going to have to discuss on Wednesday and I don't know exactly how to handle it. A couple of the students today were freaked out, and I really don't know what, if anything, I need to say to them on Wednesday......


  1. That's a tough one. I was on campus at St. John's when we went into lockdown because their was a gunman on campus. It was just after Virginia Tech and though nothing happened it was still a scary event to be a part of. Going to classes the next day after being locked in a building for three hours and only hearing information from the news is nerve-racking.

    My teachers broached it at the beginning of class. Does anyone want to talk about it? etc. Offered the counseling center services but then went on with class.

    I think that's the best course of action.

  2. Thanks, Casey. I have the info about CAPS (counseling service) which I'll mention.

  3. Also, get yourself on that emergency notification thing! I like what Casey suggested.

    It's a reminder that tomorrow isn't promised and that we should go all out for what we want each day. I feel for this student's family.

  4. We had a student last year (not someone I really knew, but a friend of a friend) who was killed after falling down a flight of stairs. It was really awful. I don't think there's any easy way to talk about it, at all, though Casey's suggestions are great. Encourage them to talk about it, whether with you, or with their friends, or with the counseling center. Even if they didn't know him, it can touch them in ways they don't even realize.

  5. Unfortunately, college is the place where most students experience death in some form or another for the first time. Maybe they've had a grandparent die before, but that makes sense...that's someone who was old.

    I think this is a situation too where you can tell your students to be safe and make smart choices. I always try to say on Fridays, "Have a safe and happy weekend".

    Nothing wrong with warning them about being cautious too: Don't walk home late by yourself (regardless if you're male or female), etc etc. Yesterday in class we talked about binge drinking some, and I told them honestly, "Freshmen do stupid things. I did stupid things, but please be careful people. I don't want any of you ending up dead."

  6. i'd 2nd all the comments here :( what a sad thing to happen..

  7. Thanks for all the comments, you guys! They were really helpful.

    This afternoon in seminar, someone else brought up the subject, and how we can/should talk about it with our freshmen. The class ended up having a really good talk about it and different ways people handle discussing (or not discussing) traumatic events in the classroom. It was helpful just to air our concerns and our own feelings, and even though it's still really sad, I feel a bit better prepared to talk about it tomorrow.

  8. That's a terrible, thing, Emily, and something teachers (and students) will never get used to. Good luck addressing it in class.

  9. One of my 101 student's brother died last week. She'd just written a personal essay about him, which I'd read. She was gone all week and is coming back tomorrow. I don't really know what to expect.


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