I got to work this morning and unlocked the door. I sat in the dark for a few minutes as usual before turning on the lights to get ready.
I checked my email, unenthusiastically, and tweeted about needing coffee.
And then my world got rocked. An email from a tutor revealed that one of my students, Malith Wiek, was murdered, needlessly and senselessly, on Tuesday night.
The rest of the day, I have tried to get work done, but I feel shaken, queasy, and I just keep crying. Malith was a very dedicated student, and one I would call a friend; he arrived early, and twice a week he came in just as we opened. We would walk in together and he would stand and talk to me in the dark before I had turned on the lights. He would reflect about his progress in the United States, about the students at the school where he worked, about his mission to be a better American. He had a light in his eyes that can only be described as relief and contentment; after years wandering the desert with the Lost Boys of Sudan, one can barely attempt to imagine his transition to life here.
On Tuesday, a busy workload kept me from my usual chat with Malith when he came in. I walked over to him at the computer and tapped his shoulder to say hello. We exchanged smiles and pleasantries and quickly went back to work.
On Wednesday, I pulled in and saw a black car go past me on the street. The tall, black male driver smiled and waved at me, so I assumed it was my buddy Malith. I waited on the sidewalk briefly, but when he didn't appear I went inside. Expecting Malith any moment in the office, it was unsettling to leave work at 4 having not seen him at all.
On Thursday, today, I found out why. I learned that Malith was shot several times, his car and wallet were taken, and he was left dead in a neighborhood of immigrants dreaming the American Dream.
This is the closest I've ever been to a violent death. It has left me rigid and nauseous, and unwilling to accept that this is reality. And the reality is, people die, and people kill; people do thoughtless, terrible things. The reality is, some people only get to stick around for thirty-something years; and some of them, like Malith, still manage to make an impact. They still manage to leave whisps of sweetness in the air even after they leave. And so in the sadness and shock we feel today, the reality is that we must chose to remember the sweetness or it will be lost amidst the carelessness, and that would be the worst injustice.