Today is, without a doubt, my least favorite day of the year, and for the last nine years I have begun to dread it from the moment I see it on my calendar.
On January 22, 2005 an amazing person was taken from this world by an evil one–a man who never even knew how incredible Sarah was. Nine years ago I was 17 years old and worried about how to enjoy my last semester of high school, getting into college, and going to gymnastics practice four days a week. I wasn’t prepared for everything the world taught me that day, and I wasn’t prepared to keep myself together when 30 other younger girls were looking at me and asking the question I had no answer to: “Why?”
Why did such an amazing person get taken away from her family, friends, and gymnasts that looked up to her? Why was my first television appearance for an interview about my gymnastics coach who was held hostage and murdered by a stranger?
All this time later and I still have no answer, but I do know one thing: I learned to be strong. I learned to be aware of my surroundings (which is never a bad thing as a young woman). I discovered that a trip to Canada for a funeral with some of your teammates is an amazing way to grieve. I know that I share a bond with the rest of my teammates who were impacted by Sarah as much as I was, and together we are strong.
Though Sarah’s loss with always be devastatingly felt by all of her loved ones, the good that can be achieved by all of those whose lives she touched far surpasses the evil of this man. Today I choose to grieve, but also to be strong. I choose to remember that I can make a positive difference in the world, just as Sarah did. I will never forget the evil that occurred on this day, but I won’t let it break me and I won’t let it stop me from doing good. In fact, it will only motivate me more. I choose strength. And I know that Sarah would, too.
Today I begin coaching gymnastics again after taking a hiatus for way too long. I can only hope to inspire and motivate this group of gymnasts the way Sarah did us.
Rest in Peace, Sarah.