Arment: Hope remains despite tragedy

Shirley Keenan designed wristbands to aid in the search for Jon Lacina. The wristbands are free at Buchanan Hall and at the Design Building. Photo: Yue Wu/Iowa State Daily

Yue Wu

Shirley Keenan designed wristbands to aid in the search for Jon Lacina. The wristbands are free at Buchanan Hall and at the Design Building. Photo: Yue Wu/Iowa State Daily

Unaccounted For

When I rotated back from Iraq roughly two years ago, my battalion had a ceremony for the fallen. We stood in formation as role was symbolically called. When the names of the departed were called out, they hung heavy in the air.

When it was called out that they were not present, it was my battalion’s way of trying to bring closure; closure brought to bear by a public acknowledgment in the Marine culture that some of us didn’t make it back. Even with our boots, bullet proof vests, Humvees, machine guns and 12-ton armored troop-carriers, we were fallible. Even with our hate and discontent, our endless rage, there were those who in malicious violence took that which cannot be restored.

When Jon Lacina went missing, the reaction of the community was a positive one. A comprehensive search was mounted, the greek community searched their properties and posters with Lacina’s face on them were used to cover all exposed waist-to-head-level glass on the Lied Recreation Center doors.

There was even a discussion in my cozy apartment at the northwest fringe of town. My roommates and I sat down to discuss what we thought happened, where he could be and what we could do; if anything. The only thing we could do was be more aware of ourselves and each other.

Gradually, the posters on the doors of the Lied curled around the edges, and the ones around Welch Avenue grew tattered from exposure to the elements. They were taken down and replaced with new, crisp ones, but always in fewer numbers. A kind of calm had fallen on the subject, but people were still thinking about what could have happened and carrying around questions with them through their days.


Some things that impact the community linger. There are times when things happen that don’t make sense to us, or the sense they do make leaves us feeling a little bit hollow. The answers provided are sometimes incomplete. How does a community make sense of someone disappearing?

For a time, I thought the communities thought process would bustle away from the memory of Lacina quickly; that in a matter of months, his disappearance would cease to trouble the minds of the public. However, some time after a news release from the State Medical Examiners office ruling his death accidental, there were still unanswered questions. Amateur theorists abound in every town, and in college towns they are a dime a dozen.

Maybe forensic crime dramas fuel some of the more far-fetched speculation, or maybe it’s just the way things are dealt with in communities. People fit it into something that plays out well in their imaginations, making it a little easier to understand.

We don’t like to accept, as a community, that there are those who once journeyed with us that have been laid to rest. With all of our parties, good times, tests, cramming, drinking, romance and drama, we are just normal people. It makes us uncomfortable to think even with our seemingly infinite youth and oasis of college life, we are not impervious to death.

Tragedy is something hard for people to define. We don’t like it when bad things happen to good people. That’s what happened, though. Lacina went for a walk and didn’t come back. Thoreau wrote, “We should go forth on the shortest walk, perchance, in the spirit of undying adventure, never to return.”

This isn’t the first time someone has abruptly left the community, by any means, and it wont be the last. We have lost far too many students this year, and the effects of their absences will be felt widely and in ways we have not yet realized.

Find Jon. Live fully.

After his disappearance, red bracelets reading “Find Jon. Live Fully.” were circulated. They are still relevant now, even after he has been found.

If there is anything tragedy illustrates clearly, it is the need to appreciate each other. To appreciate the lives we come into contact with, and to think about our priorities.

That sounds like the easy thing to say — we should stop and smell the roses. Think about it, though, do you? Do you really appreciate things for what they are?

Many college students come straight from high school. After spending the first three-fourths of their college career worrying about grades, they spend the last year worrying about what happens after graduation.

Stop. Talk to someone you normally wouldn’t. Be conscientious of deadlines, but don’t let them overwhelm the beauty in your life.

Be aware of the present moment.

Appreciate your own life, first and foremost, because it’s the only one you’ve got. Pay attention to others, and be grateful for them; there are those who’s travels end abruptly, and willful ignorance of this is selfish.

The community will move on from the death of Lacina, and the death’s of our other fellow students. It is up to us whether we trudge away with our hands buried deep in our pockets and a grimace on our face, or we stride away taking solace in each other.