Carrying on in her footsteps

March 10, 2010 

As an early-twentysomething, the concept of two years - one-tenth of life as you know it - seems massive and infinite. When you actually live it, two years past can feel like just yesterday.

It was yesterday, then, that I picked up a copy of our college newspaper to find an article, boxed in red, about an unidentified woman found dead a mile from campus, wearing sweatpants and tennis shoes, with blond locks hanging past her shoulders. And yesterday that the woman remained faceless; yesterday still when our voices of reason told us it was a homeless person who had been wandering around late at night in the sinewy, dark roads off Franklin Street. And yesterday when we finally learned that this stranger was our dear friend Eve Carson.

It was two years ago, this yesterday when our world was violently and at once ripped apart. Each one of the last 700-plus days has seen an immeasurable number of people struggling with what once was a relatively easy task: getting by.

But looking back, it's clear that, with each of these cycles of 24 hours that have come to make up our recent past, the ending to that phrase would change ever so slightly, as if coming to terms with this most senseless of losses was a sort of canonization. Getting by after our small town was rocked with such terror and violence. Getting by after enduring such bottomless sorrow. Getting by after realizing that the e-mails, phone calls, messages and whispers that once came from that bright spot in your life could now be traced back only to air.

Getting by because there's nowhere you can get without moving forward.

I have to say we've gotten pretty far, and these thousands of Eve's peers - who just yesterday were paralyzed by the news of her death - are now boldly facing the day in her honor.

There is the alumnus from the University of Georgia, in Eve's home of Athens, Ga., who has undertaken a cross-country bike ride for charity; there's the recent UNC graduate who has devoted himself to teaching underprivileged children in Durham, the hometown of Eve's alleged murderers. There are her college roommates, and countless others, who have found themselves everywhere from South Korea to New York to California, preaching the gospel of how good this life is. Not least of which is the once-unknown Anoop Desai, who let her inspiration take him to Hollywood as he snagged a coveted spot in the top ranks of "American Idol," and just a year ago sounded her memory on national television.

There is, now, a garden, a 5K race, a scholarship - and too soon there will be students at UNC whose only knowledge of her comes from these monuments.

There are papers floating down the formerly stale annals of the state legislature that are addressing the ineptitude of the probation system, the need for a crackdown on gun violence and the ever-living struggle of ensuring a fair trial.

And then there are the papers that lie in my lap, and there's a pen that takes more deliberate strokes these days. As a journalist, I have found myself cursing my profession as it sensationalized her story with the gruesome details of her death - choosing to neglect the large part of an audience that was, and for a long time would be, reeling from her absence.

Words - here, grisly, slain, shoulder, hip, head, final, fatal - that dissect our unchangeable pasts, I learned, should be traded in for those that move each moment forward. No story's subject is inhuman.

Because there are still days, no matter your loss, when you forget that yesterday is gone, and your lungs sink in with a pain that can't possibly be biological: a heaviness that still finds and catches up with you, takes the wind out of you, and brings you to your knees.

But then a better memory comes along: Bob Carson, Eve's father, giving voice to his own optimism for our generation, and reminding us that we have miles to go, and missions to keep. Two years has proven more than enough time to learn to be brave in our ambition. It is still for her, our undaunted perseverance.

Kayla Tausche graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2008. She works for the Financial Times Group.

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