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.