Meet Haruka Weiser. Many of you have already seen this beautiful face in the newspaper or on television. Haruka was brutally murdered on the University of Texas campus on April 3.
Sydney, my granddaughter, called to ask if I would go to her tennis match after school. Well, what’s a grandma to do. Of course, I would be there. Little did I know at the time what story would unravel.
“Grammy, we just received a message on our phones from the school that someone from our school died in Texas.” Sydney and her friend Emily are students at ACMA but play tennis at one of the larger schools. The girls sat huddled with their phones trying to discover the name of the student. Finally…”Grammy, we think it is Haruka. She graduated last year and went to Texas.” We didn’t know for sure at that time, but the next morning the news would be confirmed.
ACMA (Arts and Communications Magnet Academy) is part of our public school system along with other magnet schools: Health and Sciences, International School, Rachel Carson Environmental Sciences, School of Science and Technology. Sydney started ACMA in the 6th grade. The schools have small student bodies. The teacher/student ratio is fantastic and the kids know one another. All ages working together in their arts and looking to college. A small student body with a like purpose.
Sydney is a Senior next year. Haruka graduated last year. Syd was one of those kids who dreamed to dance like her. Gone too soon. It is hard to know what to say to her. Having worked with kids for twelve years, you would think I had a handle on it but not so. Her hurt was mine as well. I was hurtled back into the past when I was a freshman, I believe. A cheerleader had died. Three of us had gone to the funeral home. Teens mourning teens. Something I will never forget. I knew what Sydney was feeling.
I know there was crime and violence when I was growing up. Some of it was covered up by families. Some was never reported. For women, there was a terrible shame and more than likely she would be blamed. We had silent children in our classrooms that no one asked or wanted to know how they lived. Now we hear about it almost as soon as it happens. As for Sydney and her friend, there was no time to prepare them. A message on the phone.
We become more protective of our kids when things like this happen. I know this will influence many students’ college decisions. It affects the amount of freedom we comfortably give our children. It makes the gut tighten when they walk out the door.
So what can we do? We need to be vigilant. We need to be sure that our children know about safety and what to do in an emergency. Wise parents check the to see if any registered child predators live in the area, because registered or not, they are there. Be sure that your children do not pass on their names or where they live to strangers. Warn our teenagers to never walk alone at night. If they leave a destination, make sure they call home to tell you. Be aware of who your children are talking with online and on their phones. Responsibility comes with those devices. We know what is out there. Our children do not. We must be vigilant.
For me, bringing Haruka’s story to light is an important step in helping Sydney heal. A gift to the arts was stolen. A daughter was lost. A young woman torn from the hearts of her friends. I pray that along with you, we can do more to save the children. Thank you for listening.