Oct 27, 2011, 11:44 AM EDT
I had just finished playing a Keenan interhall soccer game when I heard the tragic news. A student had fallen from a video tower while filming football practice. When I got back to my dorm, my rector and a university e-mail confirmed the heartbreaking story. One year ago today, junior Declan Sullivan, a resident of Fisher Hall and a student videographer with the Notre Dame football team, passed away following a terrible accident.
In the aftermath of Sullivan’s death, the university was thrust into the spotlight, vehemently criticized by people across the country. On a particularly blustery day, many questioned why Sullivan was filming atop a scissor lift over the LaBar Practice Complex.
I did not know Sullivan, but like many others, was filled with an array of emotions. From the newspapers to the television stations to the conversations in the dining hall, people pointed fingers and called for answers. But no single person can be blamed. It was an accident. The university took collective responsibility for not having adequate safety precautions in place to prevent such a tragedy.
In the year that has passed since Sullivan’s death, the university has installed remote-controlled cameras to replace the scissor lifts that were previously used. Notre Dame is not the only school doing everything it can to make sure an accident like this never happens again. Other colleges across the country have installed new systems and instituted new policies to prevent these types of tragedies.
I’ll never forget where I was when I found out a fellow student, someone who loved Notre Dame and loved Notre Dame football, not unlike myself, had been violently and suddenly taken from us.
I will also never forget how the university came together in mourning, remembrance and celebration of Sullivan’s life. The campus-wide Mass was a powerful reminder of what makes this place special. It was a reminder of the familial nature of this university, and how even though we each have our own dorms, our own experiences and our own ideas of what this university means to us, at the core, we are all Notre Dame students, and that is a bond that will not be broken. It is those times, when we gather together, pray together and sing together, that we, as Notre Dame, are at our very best.
I drive down the road between the tennis courts and the practice fields almost every day, and not a day goes by where I’m not mindful of what happened there. Last week, a memorial to Sullivan was dedicated outside the Guglielmino Athletic Complex. It is located in between the practice field and the team’s entrance to The Gug, each day, reminding the players of their fallen Notre Dame brother – a member of the Irish football family that will never be forgotten.
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