Some 25 years after a freak highway accident during a charity walk claimed the lives of five of her sorority sisters at the University of Mississippi, journalist Paige Williams decided to answer her nagging questions about the tragedy. Not about what happened but about how it affected the lives of the families, the truck driver, and the other survivors—including herself.
She shared her answers in a riveting and beautifully written piece published recently on Oprah.com. It’s a story of friendship, horror, grief, and resiliency. And it shows some of the ways people cope with unspeakable loss, especially the sudden death of young people with so much living yet to do.
For example: Sending remembrance cards to the five victims’ parents every March. Praying when passing the five white crosses near the wreck site. Creating scholarships. Supporting charity. Coming to terms with survivor’s guilt. And dreaming about Margaret, Robin, Mary, Beth, and Hess—and what they’d be like today had they lived.
I’ve read lots of the online comments after the article and a related radio show I heard last week. Some of the writers were at Ole Miss in March 1987 and knew the Chi Omega victims. Many others describe having friends, family members, and colleagues die without a chance to say goodbye. What comes through is that grief is complex and healing takes time. And it's important to remember the people we've lost and how knowing them changed our lives.