On Tragedy and Grief: On Our Three Winners

They were three beautiful people with three loving souls and three booming hearts. And I never knew them. I never met them. But they are family -- they were before I knew their names, before I saw their photos and heard their stories and felt the grief of the moment. They still are family.

It still seems unfathomable that our sweet little college town, the one nestled among the happiness and carelessness of youth and the passion of Tar Heel blood and basketball and family, can suffer such tragedy. It seems too strong a dichotomy between the innocence of our lives here at this school and the illogical shock of the events that transpired this week.

But unfathomable doesn't mean impossible. And this week, we were forced to live with the unfathomable. But, throughout the tragedy of the Chapel Hill shooting, we also lived through a few special moments.

I've seen the beauty of the Carolina family time and time again. I've seen Franklin Street spilling with Carolina fever and with Duke disgust. I've seen the McCorkle quad on a spring Friday afternoon. I've seen Weaver Street Market during a Sunday morning brunch -- families and children and dogs and students alike. I've seen unanimous goose bumps at the eruption of James Taylor's infamous "Carolina in my Mind" chorus. And I've seen camaraderie as Carolina strangers lock arms in anticipation of our sweet alma mater -- as we hark the sound of Tar Heel voices ringing clear and true.

And now I have seen our family endure tough personal loss. I saw our family come together in mourning, expressing care and affection and love and warmth for three lovely lives.

And let us rejoice over the impact that a beautiful soul can have on a community. On thousands gathered in mourning at an impromptu vigil, a motley group of people consisting of those who personally knew Our Three Winners mixed with those with close mutual friends mixed with those lacking a physical connection but still sharing that beautiful emotional connection that comes with love and loss.

We've lost a beautiful part of our family, and our world has slapped us with a harsh reality. But at this point, the conversation is no longer one of shock. This happened. We can voice opinions; conversations, debates, and arguments regarding motive and reason. We may never truly know what brought one man to shoot a gun not once but again and again and to end three undeserving lives. We may never stomach the piercing pain of frustration and futility.

But what we can do is take from these three touching individuals. The brevity of life is terrifying. But it never has taken a long life to make a full life. And Our Three Winners should inspire us -- because of what they had accomplished, because of their academic success and because of Deah's passion for international dental relief. Because of what they would have done in the future--what they should have done.

But even more has stood out to me. On top of accomplishments and talents and passions. On top of everything else Deah and Yusor and Razan had going for them. And that is the incredible impact that three positive spirits can have on this world. The family that will come together over three amazing people. And the countless lives that can be changed by three good souls.