On Friday night, while my family celebrated my son’s eighth birthday, another family was mourning the tragic loss of their daughter. I do not know the family nor did I know their daughter, yet the news still stopped me in my tracks.
Courtney O’Bryan was just a freshman at Penn State University, the same school I attended and the one for which I still bleed blue and white. Courtney was from Huntington, NY, just one town over from where I grew up. She was a newly initiated member of Sigma Delta Tau, the same sorority in which I too was a member. She was in a car heading to Buffalo, a path I drove when visiting a friend in college. Courtney O’Bryan was going on a canning weekend to raise money for THON (Dance Marathon), an amazing philanthropic event for which I too took many weekend canning trips. Yet Courtney’s life ended tragically when the car in which she was a passenger skidded on a patch of black ice and flipped over in an accident of horrific proportions.
Courtney O’Bryan, a freshman at Penn State University from Huntington, NY and member of Sigma Delta Tau was heading to Buffalo to raise money for THON (Dance Marathon), when the car in which she was a passenger skidded on black ice and flipped over.
Her life is so real to me, even if it is more than twenty years ago that I was her.
Though I can relate so much to Courtney, I am a parent now and cannot stop thinking about her folks. My heart aches for her family, who will not be able to celebrate any more birthdays with her. I cannot even imagine the enormity of their sorrow. Reading the news of this tragedy made me want to run into my kids’ rooms, grab hold of them and never ever let them go.
It also aches for her friends, especially those who saw her or had breakfast with her in the dining hall at Penn State on Friday morning. I can picture them; enthusiastic freshman getting ready to head out from the dorms for a fun weekend away from campus.
My heart aches too for Penn State and for THON (dance marathon), the largest student run philanthropy in the world which raises money for children with cancer, both of which have had an especially difficult year already.
I always open my wallet for canners, having taken part in THON as both a supporter and a participant. This year I will be digging a little deeper in memory of Courtney O’Bryan. May she rest in peace.