In Memory of

Memory is a strange thing.

I don't remember what I ate for breakfast, but I can tell you in painstaking detail what I was doing when the Twin Towers fell. I was seven years old, and I lived in Manhattan, and I saw the smoke from my window and, later that day, on the TV, as adults gathered in our living room and spoke in voices that sounded like broken glass.

Tragedies have the ability to capture a moment in time like a photograph, to imprint themselves on our minds like a brand.

And, oh, do they burn.

The afternoon Folabi died, I was driving my sister home from school. She was scrolling through Twitter; I was pulling into the garage. Something on Twitter had made her start, because she turned to me. Someone at our school just died, she told me, and her voice had that familiar hollow sound, a senior named Folabi.

For a few seconds, I couldn't breathe.

And then, I laughed. I laughed and told her to cut it out -- because Twitter wasn't a reliable source of information, because Folabi was in my government class, because, damnit, people don't die at seventeen years old.

There are some tragedies that the entire world mourns for, some dates that our collective unconscious will never be able to forget. Others are quieter, smaller, drowned out by other events going on and remembered only by people here and there, by those that had the privilege of knowing a boy with bright eyes and a kind voice.

This Thursday will mark one year since his death.

A year ago, he had already signed to play football at Montana State, and like the rest of us, he was riding out senior year, ready to begin a new adventure.

It kills me, how I have to use past tense.

In June, 473 students graduated from Dawson High School.

Folabi didn't cross the stage with us. I wish he had.

But if you look hard enough at the photographs, you can see his jersey number written on the back of each person's hand, the number 79 repeated over and over again. And if you had listened hard enough, you could hear people murmuring about him, about the empty chair where he should have sat, about all the memories of him and with him. If you had been there but didn't know what had happened, you might even think everyone was whispering a song, or a prayer.

Maybe we were.

There is a saying that has always haunted me. It goes like this: They say you die twice. Once when you draw your last breath, and the second time, a little bit later, when someone says your name for the last time.

This is for you, Folabi.

I will never stop saying your name.