1 year later: BGSU sorority tragedy

I said it a year ago, and I still believe it’s true today. The news of last year’s tragic car accident that resulted in the deaths of three sorority sisters from Bowling Green was the “you remember where you were when” moment for the Greek community and alumni. As someone who’s loved to write for as long as I’ve been able to spell words, I’m sometimes compelled to jot down my thoughts. I don’t always write because I want to. Sometimes I write because I have to. Not because I have any false sense of self-importance but because I have to express my feelings. Really, I guess when I feel that I need to write, I write for myself. But if the stars align, maybe the things I say can help someone else. When I wrote down what I was feeling about last March’s accident, I assumed my friends (and perhaps a few strangers) would read. What I did not expect were 8,000 views in the first two days.

In the last year, I’ve reread that essay a few times. I don’t think that there was anything inherently great about that particular piece of writing. I don’t think that’s why people read. I think it resonated with people because what I felt was how so many others felt. Sometimes we listen to a certain song because it might resonate with how we feel at a certain time. I think that my post echoed a lot of the things that people who love Bowling Green and the BG Greek community were already feeling. I think that the second reason why it was so widely viewed was the fact that there were countless articles around the nation and around the world. But my essay wasn’t news. It was just one man’s opinion, and while my opinion matters no more than someone else’s, it was a different genre than simply reading the news.

In my own way, I pay tribute today to what happened a year ago. As I post this, it’s surreal to me that the tragedy which awaited was a few minutes away at this moment a year ago.

For Bowling Green Greeks and for the BG alumni still connected to the university, I feel that this morning’s tragic news of three sorority sisters dying in a car accident is Bowling Green’s “you remember where you were when” moment.

All day long, my Facebook has been full of fellow Falcon alumni and undergrads expressing their condolences. From talks I’ve had with friends today, it is evident that the sympathy is heartfelt. While it doesn’t mitigate the tragedy, the support and genuine concern from the BGSU community is inspiring.

It’s not people casually expressing their condolences in passing. It’s legitimate grief for the university, the sorority, and the families. Even though so many of us might not have known the three girls personally, we are united in a love for the BGSU Greek community.

I woke up a little bit earlier then I intended to wake up this morning. Before going back to catch a few more minutes of sleep, I decided to check Facebook. A friend’s status talked of something tragic happening in Bowling Green, but her sentiments were vague, and I started looking into the matter. The Toledo Blade was reporting that three undergraduates had died in an accident on I-75. Now I was awake.

As I did more research, I learned that all three students had been sorority sisters in Alpha Xi Delta. As much as I love Bowling Green, when a tragedy affects the Greek community, it hits me all that much more. Maybe it shouldn’t. But it does.

All day, I’ve been troubled by the thoughts of the tragedy which happened. Images come to mind of these young girls, excitedly beginning their spring break at one of the most exciting times of the semester. And in a flash, the world changed. Two of the students died at the scene of the accident, a third shortly after.

It’s like a scene from a bad movie.

I think about Alpha Xi Delta. The girl who lost a roommate, a big sister, a best friend, a recruitment “rush crush,” a PNM class sister, the friend who walked to class with you. But not just one tragedy. That loss multiplied by three. Three beautiful faces on the composite photo that – each time they’re seen – will bring back the memories and the grief for those whose light was taken from this world far too soon.

One of the articles showed a picture of the car after the crash. My heart sank. It’s a miracle that anyone survived. Another article showed pictures of them. Beautiful, vibrant women who had their entire lives ahead of them.

I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to lose a fraternity brother as an undergraduate. Let alone multiple brothers in one tragic twist of fate. It would have been utterly devastating.

You go away to college and go Greek and when you’re in school, those people are your family. You laugh with them, fight with them, and share the magic that is the college experience with them. As an alumnus, not a day goes by when I don’t talk with one of my fraternity brothers from college. I see them at events and have dinner with them. I talk to them on the phone. I communicate with them through texting, Facebook, and other social media. It’s a bond that, unless you were Greek, I think you struggle to truly understand or appreciate.

I’m not sure if anyone will ever read this. Some may wonder why I even wrote this. It’s just how I deal with tragedy. I write about what I feel. As I think about the stresses in my life, in times like these, it’s striking how irrelevant those things truly are.

For Alpha Xi Delta, the chapter can get better or get worse in the shadow of what has happened. I can only hope that they choose to succeed and continue to be the strong chapter that they always were when I was a student. I know that there are countless BG alumni who are there to be supportive.

I pray for the two sisters in Alpha Xi who survived the accident, that they can have quick and successful recoveries, and that the long term physical affects would be minimal.

Rest in peace: Sarah Hammond, Christina Goyett, and Rebekah Blakkolb. I hope that your families find some comfort in the support of the BGSU family.

To the Bowling Green student body, to the BGSU Greek community, to the women of Alpha Xi Delta, and most especially, to the families of the victims of this unthinkable tragedy, I give my most sincere condolences and send all my love.

God bless.

Joshua Benner

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