Everybody gets out of here alive

Too many University students tragically died in the previous school year. This year, together, we will do something about it.

John Hoff

Consider this sobering casualty list for a moment.

Germaine Vigeant, 20, fell to her death from the Bunge grain elevator.

Abidah Adam, 20, was killed on a bike near University and Washington Avenues Southeast in the last days of the summer session.

David Chung, 21, drowned in a cold lake while attempting to retrieve a soccer ball.

Richard Rose, 20, died of injuries suffered while helping to pull down a football goal post at the University’s Morris campus.

Andrew “Andy” Dickinson, 30, was struck by a vehicle on Interstate 94 while walking after his car ran out of gas.

These students had something in common besides being in the prime of life. Every one of these incidents was the result of an error in judgment. The error may have lasted just a split second, as in the case of the student who was struck down on a bike. Or the error may have been a sustained course of profoundly bad choices, such as being a minor consuming alcohol and then trespassing to climb a tall, decrepit grain elevator.

Statistically, college students aren’t going to die from clogged arteries. Various kinds of accidents and mishaps are far more likely to claim your life.

You probably know many tricks to better your odds, advice to yourself inside your head like a nagging but loving parental voice. Buy a bike helmet. Choose better companions. Watch out for heavy metal lids suspended in the upright position when scrounging for goodies in a trash container. (OK, some of us might have grown up a little differently.)

Looking at a bright, potential-filled school year from the first issue of the student paper, I can’t help but wonder whose name will be splashed across these pages, killed in a mishap with a vehicle or murdered in a flash of anger or lust.

In defiance of this tragic social pattern, I propose nobody’s name should appear in this newspaper as a casualty. That’s right, nobody better die in the coming year. Together, in a kind of experiment in the power of mass consciousness, we can concentrate, collectively, on these words: Everybody gets out of here alive.

Think the words, feel the power surging through you, knowing other minds are reading and thinking the same words, maybe even historians reading centuries from now. Everybody gets out of here alive. Then, together, we can act on these words. When a drunken friend reaches for the car keys, you reach first and say, “Remember? Everybody gets out of here alive.”

Maybe, in the coming year, you will feel like sending a columnist an e-mail or writing a guest column for Opinions Editor Frances Zerr, discussing some unsafe situation or practice in our campus community which, if left unchecked, could interfere with our collective goal that everyone gets out of here alive.

The issues you bring up in the coming year don’t have to be anything earth-shattering. If this list of casualties teaches us anything, it teaches how something minor can escalate alarmingly, until lives are lost or shattered by grief over something as small as a soccer ball or a desire to cross the street.

Each school year begins with lofty words and hope. But how long can we sustain that high hope? How long can we just keep everybody alive?

John Hoff welcomes comments at [email protected].