Neptune High School. The year was 1977. Her name was Bonnie Jeanne Gresham. Bonnie was one of a few Christian friends I had. She was one of the smartest people I knew and about the most personable. As if that wasn’t enough, Bonnie was attractive as well. She came up in a conversation this past weekend for some reason—I really don’t remember why.
Bonnie died in October 1980 in a skydiving accident. She would have been a junior at college. Seems I remember something about her being in training to join the Army and was on a jump when both chutes failed to open. I was 20 at the time and was pretty shaken over her death. At the time, I was in the Air Force and there were some who were trying to convince me to take up jumping. It wasn’t a requirement, just optional. I opted not to, especially after hearing about Bonnie. She may be why I’m alive today as I was seriously interested in jumping.
I guess the sad thing is that Bonnie died before the advent of the Internet. Otherwise, there would be Facebook pages in her honor, news widely spread, sentiments flowing in from all over—the normal stuff that happens today. But being gone almost 30 years, I have to wonder how many people remember her. How many people remember those who we lost as friends so long ago.
And there were others like Tyrone Floyd, who was my best friend until he drowned between our fifth and sixth grade years, and Una Cho, who was killed by a drunk driver during her freshman year at college.
How are their families doing? What would their lives and the world be like if they were still with us?
MORE: Bonnie Gresham
http://tech.mit.edu/V100/PDF/N43.pdf (Page 4, “Different Endings”)
I was curious about the writer of the article in The Tech #43, Gordon Hunter. I tracked him down and shared an email and my post with him. Here is a portion of his response back to me:
“…Yes, that was my column. It was one of my favorites at The Tech, and allowed me to vent some very strong emotions in a constructive way. It is very difficult to write about death without sounding morbid. I remember EIC Steve Solnick taking a personal interest in helping me to get the tone correct. I also remember getting lots of comments on that column, so I guess it struck a chord with others. You are correct that I never knew Bonnie personally, and I don’t remember having any friends in common. I had read about the incident in the Wellesley student paper while I was trying to write about my friend Ken. I thought her story nicely balanced with Ken’s. After reading your tribute, I regret even more that she and I never met. You have done a nice job, and I am sure her spirit is smiling upon you.”
Gordon: Thanks for sharing then, and thanks for sharing now.
It’s funny how a death so long ago can bring the living together today across time, miles, and culture.