I usually don’t pour out my thoughts and feelings to just everyone, but I figured I could do just that for Steve and his family.
It’s been 11 days since Steve and his mom died in that plane crash and I’m not a whole lot closer to understanding anything. After hearing the news and praying and emailing people like crazy and going to the funeral, now time is just going on without them.
It had been a few years since I had seen Steve. I’d known him since we were nine years old and his family moved in across the street from ours. The first time I ever saw him he was sitting on our couch watching TV while my dad was cooking out for some of our neighbors. I looked at him and thought he was so adorable. NEVER told him that of course.
Years went by and I always heard about the antics of the Lotti/Young family - Steve’s older sister running over some kid in the neighborhood (kid was alright, just learned why you should look both ways) and his younger sister unknowingly letting burglars into their home willingly ‘cause they seemed nice. He knew my family’s stories too – baby sister tossing dirt and rocks into Ziplocs and trying to sell them to the neighbors for the bargain price of a quarter (Steve’s mom would give Tasha a whole dollar! She ended up getting lots of dirt.) We went to school together and went to different colleges and just grew up. Through it all I always felt connected to him and knew we would always know where the other was. I guess I felt like he was some kind of second or third cousin.
Three months ago my baby sister graduated from high school and I saw Steve’s parents at her party. When Sherra saw me she immediately started telling me all what Steve had been doing for the past couple of years. She was so proud of all he had done and told me about his fianceé (he hadn’t proposed yet, but I guess mom’s are always ahead of the game). Even knowing that Steve was adventurous, I was still surprised by all that he had done. She told me that he was ending his tour with the Peace Corp and coming back to Atlanta and to our 10-year reunion.
At our reunion, when I spotted a guy with a ponytail from across the room I knew it was him and ran to see him. I teased him about his hair and he promptly told me that my sister was throwing a big party at the house because his parents had received a flyer warning of the festivities and asking everyone to please not call the cops. We laughed and I did tell him that I thought what he’d done in the Peace Corp was really awesome. But, there were so many people there that night that I hadn’t seen in so long that I didn’t go in to asking him more about it there, because I knew that I would have more time later. I regret that so much now.
I had about 16 hours from the time I knew he was on that plane to the time I knew he’d been confirmed dead. During that time I went from being hysterical to hopeless to numb to knowing that I had just overreacted. More than half of those passengers survived. More than HALF! Seeing the pictures I knew that was a miracle in itself. I figured that the family had gotten a call from Steve or Sherra in the night, but that they were so busy rejoicing and letting the immediate family know the great news that telling the neighbors was going to happen the next day. I figured Steve was just a little banged up and in some foreign “hospital” – using the word hospital loosely here. I figured that I’d see him again in a week or so and be able to hug him and tell him how I felt about him and get to hear his new story about how he survived a plane crash in the Peruvian jungle.
At 9am the day after the crash my father told me that there had been no middle of the night phone calls. That was when I really prepared for hearing the worst news I could think of.
We all know what happened now. They are gone from us. I don’t really consider them lost since I know where they are. Even so, I can’t quite come to terms with all of this.
Steve was something special. I know everyone starts saying all these nice things about people after their dead, but Steve was different. He was smart, charismatic, thoughtful, funny, adventurous, creative, good-looking, etc, etc, etc. Almost every complimentary adjective you can think of to describe a person would apply to him. He was smart and altruistic, but not geeky and unable to relate to people. He was hilarious and unique, but not weird or self-destructive. I’ve been trying to think of something not so great about him and all I can come up with is that he was quiet sometimes.
I’m so sad for his family and for the rest of us. Knowing what I’m feeling I can’t even imagine what they’re feeling. I’m not sure if they knew that most everyone else thought Steve was special too. When you’re related to someone, you pretty much love them no matter what. Steve was almost impossible not to love if you knew him.
More than anything I was feeling so angry - angry that we (the world) have been so cheated of him. We’ve been cheated out of all the things he would’ve done in his life, the people he would’ve helped, the lives he would’ve made better, the people he would’ve made laugh, the children he would’ve raised. Slowly, I’ve started seeing another perspective. I’ve started feeling blessed that we had him at all for 28 years. The world didn’t deserve him, but we were blessed with him anyway.
I will miss him and his mom and think about his family everyday. I can’t wait to see him again and see what kinds of things he’s doing for God’s kingdom. I know God has a sense of humor and I can’t help but think that he’s cracking up the creator of all the universe right now.
I know that everyone affects the people around them and leaves an impression when they’re gone. But, there truly aren’t many people you can say made the world better. I only know one.
Steve, the world was a better place because you were here. I love you and miss you and I will see you again. Keep the hair long, dude!