The Passing of a Friend and a Social Media Epilogue

Two nights ago, Steve Smith, a friend through the Colonial Army (GW Basketball’s student fan group) and WRGW (GW’s student radio station), was killed in a sad, disturbing, unbelievable accident on the way home from visiting a girl he was dating.

GWhoops, George Washington University’s most popular message board, has a thread talking about him that’s developing. Frank Dale, a friend of mine and leader of both the Colonial Army and WRGW’s sports department at points during our respective college careers, does a nice job of summarizing the difficulty of balancing the difficult process of focusing on your own personal sphere and maintaining the friendships that seem inconsequential until they’re gone. (ADDED: Jessica Quiroli posts a nice tribute too.)

He was passionate in sports, in relationships and he was never afraid to throw himself out there. I have little doubt that with his willingness to say something controversial and unpopular and his impeccable knowledge of the history, statistics and intangibles to back it up, he would have one day been a sports journalist or entertainer (or, both) that everyone loved to hate, but had to respect. He had the dedication, the work ethic and the ability.

I personally miss the kid, and spent a good deal of time with him, including a trip to New Orleans. Walking the French Quarter with him after a few difficult losses for GW basketball, I was struck by how good a person he was. He was provocative, but he did it for the fun of it. In those moments of frustration and irritation that he caused you by saying something you refused to agree with, he found a deeper level of you. That was the life he lived, from what I knew of him. Everyone knew who the stars were in Major League Baseball, so he learned all the rosters of Double-A ball. His knowledge of music was downright uncanny. And he wanted to share the love. He wanted others to know what he knew because it caused him so much joy and you deserved to experience it too.

This is the first time I’m watching the death of someone close to me evolve on Twitter and Facebook. The Atlantic has a great piece from earlier this year about social media and the death of someone you’ve watched from afar, but to comb through the Twitter messages and watch the Facebook wall of someone that you know who’s gone, it’s something unreal.

So many people have had messages for him, from those who knew him well to those who only knew the Twitter enthusiast that they relied on for New York Yankees news and opinion. Others remember concerts, radio broadcasts and hugs.

Painfully, the world can watch the grieving process of a girl who was falling for him up until the moment he died. I’ve elected not to put her account here because it’s something so private in a very public sphere, but to see the hour-by-hour account of happiness-turned-worry-turned-frustration-turned-loneliness is nothing short of heart wrenching.

It’s strange, knowing that your Tweets, videos, status updates, blog entries… they’re just going to stop one day, and will leave a personal history that contains no ending.

Instead, all you can do is hope that through the people you’ve known or the people you’ve impacted through the social media you’ve created and the ideas you’ve shared can write the epilogue to the story that ends without an ending.

Because of who he was and what he created, the epilogue is substantial and wide reaching. I can only hope that what I share with the world makes the impact that he was able to make.


5 Responses to The Passing of a Friend and a Social Media Epilogue

  1. Andrea says:

    Hello. I am the girl’s mother to which Steven fell for. She is crushed, devastated and beyond tears. Love didn’t come easy for her. She waited until “the right one” came along. It took her 21 years to find the man that would treat her right and love her the way a person should be loved. I never got to meet Steven, even though I know in my heart, when the time did come, I would have thoroughly enjoyed his personality and passion for sports and music. My daughter speaks of him with such love and conviction for what they shared and for what Steven would someday be. It wasn’t a long relationship, but somehow they managed to make an immediate connection and they clicked on a level unlike any other. He stimulated her emotionally, mentally and intellectually. To think what Steven Smith had accomplished in his short life and what greatness would have been waiting for him in the future, makes his passing all the more painful. I can tell, from what my daughter tells me, he had a wonderful family who raised him to treat a young lady with respect. I am forever grateful that Madison was graced with his love and presence in his lifetime. He was put in her life for a reason. May he rest in peace and know that she loved him deeply.

  2. dtearl says:

    Andrea –

    Thanks so much for the beautiful comment. Steve really was a special guy and the unbelievable number of people who have expressed their shock and sadness at what happened is unreal.

    Madison is truly lucky to have someone like you supporting her through this brutal time. No one can ever truly and completely move on, but I hope that you and Madison can find peace and comfort soon.


  3. Bill says:

    My deepest condolences to you, Dave, and to everyone else that Steve’s passing is hurting. From your tribute, among others, it is clear he made a positive impression and impact on a number of people in the time that they had with him.

    The latter part of your entry has really made me think (not for the first time, unfortunately) about the social media imprint we will all leave behind. I wanted to specifically thank you for this paragraph:

    “Instead, all you can do is hope that through the people you’ve known or the people you’ve impacted through the social media you’ve created and the ideas you’ve shared can write the epilogue to the story that ends without an ending.”

    Which I think was extraordinarily well-written and thoughtful, even by your usual standards.

  4. dtearl says:

    The phrasing’s a little muddy, but so was my head at the time of writing it. I’ve had Facebook and life on the brain lately, and it’s interesting that a friend posted this article to his Twitter just as I’ve been pondering it. There’s probably no better explanation of what I was going for than this article in the Washington Post:

    I’m going to write a little more extensively tonight about it, but these URLs will last far longer than us. It’s both exciting and troubling.

  5. Amanda says:

    Dave – thank you for this post. I didn’t know Steven that long but his love for all things GW was always a big part of him. Thanks also for sharing the links to the Washington Post article though of course I was a sobbing mess by the time I read it.

    Andrea – my thoughts are with Madison and I’m so glad she has you to help her through this difficult time.

    Steven will be missed by everybody who knew him, whether in “real life” or the virtual world.


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