As humans, we are constantly meeting new people. Some are memorable and some are not. Some stay in our lives, others criss cross paths with us from time to time, and some we never see again.
In first grade I went to North Star Community School in Minneapolis. About one third of my first grade class went on to the Intermediate elementary school, Junior High & High School together. It's a funny thing to be educated in the largest school district in the state of Minnesota and have such an intimate community of classmates.
Of this group of classmates most are my friends on Facebook. We criss cross through each other's lives on the internet, chiming in on photo postings of children, new houses and vacations. We offer support to one another through wall posts & reactions to FB status. Sometimes I laugh at this, but mostly I am grateful to be in some sort of contact with people who I care for very much but likely wouldn't ever see with the exception of class reunions.
This weekend I logged into to Facebook and read that a member of this group of classmates them had been killed the night before.
I read on and sadly, it was true.
Dontae Johnson was a kid who had the most infectious personality and smile. He was kindhearted and as a classmate, was someone you felt lucky to have an assigned seat next to. As we grew older and became our own people, Dontae never stopped saying hello or asking how things were - and he really wanted to know. That's just the way Dontae Johnson was and always with a smile.
I think the last time I saw Dontae was at my High School ten year reunion, and before that, well it had probably been about ten years. I was excited to have recently encountered him on Facebook and excitedly looked over the photos he posted of his life: adorable kids, beautiful wife and still sporting that amazing smile. We had criss crossed each other's lives again. It was nice.
It is surreal to be writing this and I have been wrestling with the idea of writing something about this for a few days. He wasn't my best friend, or a friend I spoke with on a regular basis. But he was a friend and he had this uncanny ability to make every person he said hello to or even flashed his famous smile to feel like they were quite remarkable.
I am a crier. I cry so many times everyday thinking about this tragedy. Mostly I think about his children and his wife, his parents & siblings, the immeasurable loss they are suffering and the time they have ahead. Facebook is flooded with comments of grief, photographs & words of comfort to his family. The passing of this life was too soon and seems unfair.
And again, I cry.
There are so many crying for Dontae and his family right now. He was such a bright shining star with so much light left. I am heartbroken that he has gone. Dontae Johnson touched so many with his light and smile, even though we can't see him, he will continue to shine down light and smiles to all of us forever.