A reporter's take on the 2006 van accident
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Brevity and beauty

The challenge of remembrance

By Natalie Nohr | Contributor

Time is never a guarantee. (Photo by Natalie Nohr)

Time is never a guarantee. (Photo by Natalie Nohr)

As I interviewed the Habeckers, sitting across the hardwood table from them, my last question hung in the air: “What would your hopes be for this memorial week?”

I wanted to put my finger on how to share this accident with a generation who hadn’t experienced the tragedy firsthand. I wanted to understand. I wanted for others to understand. I leaned forward, waiting, ready for what President Eugene Habecker was going to say next. I saw the president of my university, his wife and the job they have so ardently thrown themselves into, the office with its books and paintings and enormous desk, and their intent, strained faces as they searched for an answer. My gaze traveled to President Habecker as I waited.

Then I watched as he began to cry.

They were true, raw tears, shed by a man broken for those who had been killed and broken for those who were suffering loss. In that moment, I saw a father, hurting, weeping as if they were his sons and his daughters. I saw a man who has offered himself up in service for the people who walk the sidewalks of this campus, and a woman who has opened her heart to the lives of these same people.

As tears stung my own eyes and my vision blurred, President Habecker began to speak again.

“I hope that (this week will) be a reminder of the special gift every student is to this place. Life is important, it’s a gift . . . so make every single minute count,” President Habecker said. “We have no idea how much time we have left, so let’s live life in faithfulness and purpose . . . because we don’t hold tomorrow—God does.”

Later that night, I walked to the prayer chapel. I saw hammocks between trees with people laughing, swinging back and forth. I saw frisbees and tolf games, Taylor Taxis and longboards and friends chatting and catching up on their days. I saw students. I saw people just like those memorialized on the wall of the chapel.

As my footsteps echoed on the brick floor of the prayer chapel, I stopped in front of five plaques with five faces representing five lives. These are five of the Taylor community members whose time on earth was shorter than anyone dreamed it would be.

How can I remember people I did not know?

The words “make every day count” are worn thin in our minds. We are numb and calloused to this idea of time. It ticks by second by second, word by word as your eyes cross this page. Time moves forward, and we continue to receive another day. Each morning, we wake up and move through our rhythms. Yet someday we will run out of time here; someday these rhythms will cease to go on for us all. Sometimes, for reasons we do not understand, time runs out before we are ready.

April 26, 2006 is a day that can remind us all of the brevity and beauty of the seconds, minutes, days, weeks, months and years we have been graciously given; it is a day that, as President Habecker said, can remind us to live faithfully and purposefully, in hope. When we remember, we draw closer—to one another and to our God—and we realize that we are not promised more time.

 

The article above is part of a series of pieces regarding the 10-year anniversary of the 2006 van accident. To read the other articles in the series, please click on the hyperlinks below.

Bruised hearts

Comfort in community

Redefining identity

Taylor community remembers 2006 van accident

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