The other day, on one of the last days of the semester,
as I was busily grading, I was interrupted by our principal.
For some reason, when I looked up at her, I knew it wasn't good.
"Did you hear about Sabrina?" she asked.
I was confused. I had a student named Sabrina this year, but certainly hadn't heard anything about her.
"No" I said, confused.
She handed me a piece of paper. It was a news report from Mississippi.
Then it all registered. It was my former student that she meant.
"She died Friday in a traffic accident."
I couldn't speak. I didn't know what to say. Stupidly, the most I could say was "Oh my God. Oh my God. I was just thinking about her!" Which I had been, for some reason, a few weeks before...wondering how she was doing.
She went on, explaining, "She and her friend were going back to Texas. That's where her parents had relocated after the hurricane, to visit from college and that's when it happened"
I glanced at the paper. It was a freakish, fiery, horrific accident. I couldn't bear to read it. I didn't need or want to read it.
I couldn't bear to rest my eyes on the photo enough to let it to come into focus.
I had helped her get into that college. She and I had worked every day after school for nearly a month on her application essays. She was dogged in her determination to get it better and I was harder on her than usual. She and I had a closer relationship than most of my students......maybe any of them. She wanted to major in history. She was good with it too. She loved the history part of my class. She irritated the other girls with her answering correctly all the time, but she tutored them unselfishly too. I had actually helped convince her to become a teacher.
She hadn't thought of it before she told me. She would have been a wonderful one.
She's not the first student (or last I'm sure) of mine that has died.
No. In fact, the during the very first months I ever taught at a high school a student of mine committed suicide.
But Sabrina was different. I think anyone who taught her, who knew her, would say the same. I know they would.
She was 20 years old, and believe me, the world is a sadder place for her loss.
The Tyranny of Hairdressers - McCall's Magazine, January 1966.