I lost my best friend last week in the World Trade Center incident. Although I’m trying very hard to make my life go “back to normal,” I’m slowly realizing that this may be one goal that’s just unattainable, even for a first-year HBS student.
Stacey and I met the first day of college and became best friends practically overnight. We lived across the hall from each other freshman year, and then lived together for the following three years at Yale. I moved to L.A. after graduation, but when I moved back home to New York, I lived with Stacey for another year until I left for school this summer. And I think she came on more family vacations with me than my brother did.
The fact that Stacey was killed by terrorists while just sitting at her desk on the 96th floor of Tower One is still incomprehensible to me. How could this have happened? Why Stacey? Why my best friend? Why those 6,400 people? If the plane had struck an hour before, she’d be alive and well and we could be dealing with the terrifying world events together, not apart. If she could be killed in such a random way, does that mean that my life is as much at risk as hers was? I could ask these questions all day. And some days I do. But there aren’t any answers. I can’t crack this case. Instead, I have to just move on, unsettled, incomplete, rattled.
I went home for almost two weeks, first to try to help find Stacey in the many New York hospitals, post missing signs and search websites for news. Then, I went home again to comfort her family, our friends, myself. While my peers were attending section parties and negotiating group deals for fleeces, I was taking samples of her DNA to the armory. While my classmates were learning about the operations of the Donner Company, I was speaking at her memorial service in front of 1,000 people.
But now I’m back. I’m sitting in my wretched front-row center seat in section, contributing to class. I’m going to Shad, reading my cases on the elliptical machine. I’m signing up for clubs (is seven really too many?), going to Career Services events, having dinner with new friends. I’m smiling at classmates I pass on campus, I’m laughing at funny stories, I’m analyzing marketing decisions of random companies, and I’m deleting the eight million emails I get a day from various on-campus organizations. How is this possible? Just last week I couldn’t get out of bed. I couldn’t see a movie without having a breakdown in the ladies room. I couldn’t talk or think about anything else. I couldn’t go ten minutes without consuming another thousand calories (thank you, Entenmann’s). What happened?
Well, for one, I came back to school to an unbelievably supportive, amazing group of people. I came back to lengthy, compassionate emails from classmates I barely knew. I came back to new acquaintances hugging me in the hallways. I came back to professors who went out of their way to include me in class and encourage me to speak. I came back to administrators who asked me how everything was going and offered help and guidance. I came back to an “abs” class at Shad in which I actually won the who-can-sustain-the-plank-position-the-longest contest. I came back to a community that listened, that cared, that knew just what I needed and how to make me feel better. And for that, I am beyond grateful.
I know my sense of personal loss will never fade. I know that no one will ever be able to replace Stacey. And I know that few people actually know how I feel right now. But that’s okay. The most important thing is that I know that people here care. And I know that HBS will serve as a refuge from the trauma in my hometown, as a place where I can be distracted enough to just keep going, a place where I can contribute, and a place where I know I can be happy again. And that has made all the difference.