BGSU tragedy: shared grief I’ve observed from alumni

I was out to dinner with my family this evening. The conversation swirled around various topics, but I was mostly in a different world, thinking of the deaths of three young sorority sisters in Alpha Xi Delta and I struggled to muster up much of an appetite to eat my meal. At a couple points, for a brief moment, I thought that I might have a warm tear trickle down my cheek, but I was able to hold it in. Like a broken record, I continually find myself muttering “it’s so tragic, this is just so sad.”

For the current undergraduates at Bowling Green, I don’t think Greek life will ever look quite the same. An event this monumental can have a way of dividing time; there was time before the Alpha Xi Delta tragedy, but now the Greek community lives in a world after the tragedy.

In our age of media, we hear tragic and horrible news all the time. I think if we’re being honest, usually, when we express sorrow for something, we’re just doing so because it’s socially expected.

A coworker says his grandmother died, we say “I’m sorry to hear about that.” We watch the news and hear about a fatal stabbing and think “That’s unfortunate,” but so often, we don’t give these types of things a second thought.

But all day, I’ve talked to friends from college, and the vast majority of them never met the three young women who have passed away. And yet, the sorrow which so many of us feel is sincere and genuine.

So why is this affecting us so deeply?

This is my theory:

We try to imagine ourselves in the shoes of the women in Alpha Xi Delta and know how unbearable it would be. Even if it hadn’t been in our own chapter, and had just been a chapter where we had friends, we know how heartbreaking it would be. Even if it had been a chapter with which our chapter had limited interaction, we know how difficult it would be to go through this. And so, we empathize.

We’re struck to the core by the sudden finality. The lack of closure, the lack of a chance to say goodbye. When our own friends, or chapter brothers/sisters were leaving to go on spring break and we said our goodbyes, never did we ever imagine that it was for the last time. And as hard as it would have been to lose a fraternity brother or sorority sister, the Alpha Xi Deltas lost three.

I feel that among BGSU alumni and students, there is a certain spirit, a certain bond, and a certain loyalty.

I also think that it stings because there’s this feeling of: “This didn’t have to happen…This was unnecessary….If that old woman could have just been driving in the correct lane, THEN ALL OF THIS WOULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED AND THOSE GIRLS WOULD BE ON SPRING BREAK RIGHT NOW!”

There’s the surreal thought of how these three young women were alive 24 hours ago. It seems so close to us. But when we’re looking back to what has happened in the past, and it is an event as tragic as this, it might as well have been a thousand years ago.

Awhile ago a friend who was never in a fraternity said to me that he never understood the purpose of Greek life and that we were just “buying our friends.” Anyone in a fraternity or sorority has heard this before. When I was a student, that used to really bother me. It doesn’t bother me anymore. I know that I have something special, and I expect a person who isn’t Greek and who doesn’t have that experience to be naieve.

I continue to pray for the families, for Alpha Xi Delta, and for the two young women who remain hospitalized.

Joshua Benner
About the author: Josh Benner is a 2008 graduate of Bowling Green State University and an alumnus of Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. He served as the president of the BGSU Interfraternity Council from 2007-08. Josh currently lives in Columbus where he is in graduate school and serves as the current Chapter Advisory Board Chairman for the Phi Delta Theta chapter at the Ohio State University.

Categories: BGSU, Commentary, Higher Education, News

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10 replies

  1. I started crying while I read this.

  2. I’ve always heard people say that about Greek life. I don’t think you understand unless you were a part of it. I am an Alpha Xi from BG, graduated in 1996. My best friends to this day are from my days at BG. The bonds of sisterhood run very deep even if we forget it as time passes. This tragedy reminds me that we are all connected and even though I did not know these girIs, I did lose sisters. I pray for BG, these girls, and their families and friends.

  3. Thank you for writing this! This is exactly how I felt when hearing the news. Once you form a bond at BGSU, Greek or dorm life, you are part of a family forever! My heart goes out to everyone touched by this tragedy!

    2001 & 2009 graduate
    AOTT Alum

    • Thanks so much for reading and for sharing. I feel that the BGSU alumni and students have already shown so much love. The fact that it’s so difficult for so many of us shows how much more infinitely harder it must currently be for the Greek community. I’ve talked to friends who have been in tears over this today and we don’t even necessarily know very many undergrads anymore. Thanks again.

  4. Thank you for your candid and emotional message. My husband and I are both greek alumni (BGSU/Phi Delt)/(UT/Chi Omega)….We encouraged our son who is now the President of Phi Delt’s to get involved in Greek Life as soon as he got on the BGSU campus. You have stated perfectly what it means to be a Greek and what the true meaning of brotherhood/sisterhood means to these young adults. Our hearts our filled with saddness on the loss of these amazing young women. I know that the Greek community be at full strength for each other at this time.

    • Thanks so much for sharing. I’m actually an alumnus of Phi Delt as well (so I recognized the name when I saw your comment…I believe I met your son when he was a new member). It’s been striking to see how much this tragedy has moved the BGSU, and larger Greek world. It’s just such a horrible tragedy. Thanks again for writing!

  5. This was a great blog. I am an A-Phi alumni from Ball State and read this and thought just how true it is. My chapter lost a sister in the early ’80’s when I was in school. It is tough to get through. This horrific accident is just beyond belief. I’ve been following the story and just can’t imagine what these ladies are going through. The families are going through hell, the sorority sisters are having a very tough semester, the girls recovering are still trying to get through this and it’s all surreal. My prayers go to the the ladies of Alpha Xi Delta, the Greek community, the families and the two girls that are still trying to recover. It’s going to be a long emotional recovery for all involved. Embrace each other, embrace God and get through it somehow.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. One glimmer of light are the reports over the last couple of days that the survivors have been released from the hospital.

      I graduated 3 years ago, and I would still be crushed if anything ever happened to one of my brothers. I can’t imagine the magnitude and scope the sorority has had to go through. All we can do is pray for the families. Pray for the friends and hope that in the face of this horrible event, that it can make those affected better people. I believe that everything does happen for a reason. But on this side of heaven, we simply can’t always know what that reason is.

      Thanks again.

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