Today would have been Amanda’s 28th birthday.
Amanda and I went to the same high school. We were in the same group of friends, but with different lunch periods, never really hung out. One summer, I was offered a chance to babysit for a family on thier vacation to the Outer Banks and was allowed to bring a friend. I chose Amanda. That summer truly solidified our friendship – laying on the beach, making nicknames for any boy that passed (that happens when you attend a single-sex high school), babysitting the young kids when needed, exposing each other to new music. I credit my sentimentality towards U2’s “Best of 1980-1990” to her, as well as my appreciation for Ben Folds and The Smashing Pumpkins.
That fall, we decided to be lab partners in physics class. Science was neither of our strong suits, but we somehow made it through. We parted ways for college, her attending UMBC and me attending Penn State. Even through that distance and the eventual lull in our friendship, she still helped my then boyfriend make the trip from Southern Maryland to Penn State in order to surprise me for my birthday.
Amanda was killed on March 16, 2004. She was hit by a bus while on Spring Break in Cancun. Her mother published her story here. I was studying abroad in Europe and remember getting the call. It’s once of those instances that is so traumatic that you remember exactly where you were when it happened. I remember my mother telling me that I couldn’t come home for the funeral, but recommending that I reach out to some of my other high school friends who were studying in Europe at the time in order to have a support system. I remember falling to my bed any crying for a very long time. I remember numbly walking to the street corner so that I could use my calling card to reach out to people back home. I remember bolting out of class a few days later because I couldn’t explain what had happened to my professor who only spoke French. I sat in the hallway of a strange school and cried some more. Cried for her, for her family, for the kind, funny, artistic soul whose life was cut tragically short.
Upon my return, one of my first stops was her grave. I left her a plaque from Abbey Road, as the Beatles was one of her all-time favorite bands. I still go visit (albeit, not as often as I should.) I miss her and the life she could have had.
So happy birthday, Manda. We miss you a lot down here.