I was walking to Main Circle Wednesday night for an off-campus venture when I heard a familiar voice talking on the phone behind me. John (name changed), an Observer sports writer and the first guy I met at Notre Dame, was hustling down the South Quad sidewalk as fast as his legs could carry him, with two other sportswriters in tow.
"John!" I called as he closed his phone. "Where are you off to?"
"The football practice field," he said. "A video tower fell over during practice."
"That's crazy." I said. "Was anybody hurt?"
"I don't know," John told me. "That's what we're about to find out."
I made a mental note to check the story in Thursday's Observer and then forgot about it as I piled into my friend's car. Three hours later, we were coming back to campus when Jenn in the back seat pulled out her Blackberry and gasped so loudly that we all turned to stare. My heart sank. Remembering my conversation with John, I knew what was coming as she read aloud to us the email that changed the lives of the 8,000 students who Declan left behind.
We drove in silence, bidding subdued farewells as Elliott dropped us off. The solitary walk from Main Circle back to Badin was the coldest and loneliest I can recall. My mind churned with worry, terror, confusion - all the reactions one has to the shock of sudden tragedy. But when I reached Badin, I found friends ready to talk it out, offering willing hugs and consolation. We mourned together for Declan Sullivan as I remembered that in good times and in bad, and even unto death, they call it the Notre Dame family for a reason.
Last night I attended the memorial Mass for Declan, wondering if I should bring tissues for the inevitable tears - but they were not needed. The Mass was hopeful, even joyous, as we focused on celebrating his life rather than mourning his death. Good comes out of even the greatest sorrow and surely Declan's brief, beautiful life has already done immeasurable good.
"Live so as not to fear death. For those who live well in the world, death is not frightening, but sweet and precious." St. Rose of Viterbo
May Declan rest in peace.