I wish I had known Honoree

I wish I had known Honoree Fleming. 

She was my neighbor, although I only met her once and fleetingly several years ago at a neighborhood party. 

Since her tragic and senseless death, I have learned that not only was she the former dean of education here at Castleton, but a brilliant scientist as well. Reading her family’s heartbreaking and poignant words about her on social media have painted a picture of a deeply kind, caring, and intelligent person that I wish I had had the opportunity to talk to and share time with. 

Unfortunately, I never did, and now, like so many other students who didn’t know her, I never will. 

Regardless of this, her death has destabilized me, shaking my sense of my own safety and the safety of those that I love, and filling me with a deep sense of sadness and grief, for Honoree, her family, and all of us in the community. 

I can only imagine how those who did know and love her must be feeling at this time. My main purpose in writing this, however, is to reach out to my fellow students, many of whom feel impacted by her death. 

Regardless of whether Castleton, Vermont is your home year-round, I have no doubt that there are many students who feel as I do. 

This is what I think: it’s okay to feel unmotivated for school right now. It can be very difficult to feel like homework and classwork (or anything) matters in the face of death, especially such a senseless and violent death, when it comes this close to us. 

I’ve been trying to give myself grace, recognizing that coming to terms with this is my top priority right now, and I would encourage you all to do the same if you’re feeling this way. 

The pressure from our society to simply ‘move on’ from events like this is huge; as a culture we don’t know how to process grief, how to give ourselves and each other space for sorrow. 

I believe that it is deeply important that we give ourselves that space right now. It is also, I think, a disservice to Dr. Fleming’s memory to simply move on, as if nothing has happened. 

We live in a world full of violence and pain, and now more than ever, due to social media and the internet, we are inundated with news of countless tragedies every day. It is so easy to become apathetic in this climate, but we cannot allow these kinds of things to pass unnoticed. 

We cannot allow this kind of violence to become normal, in our hearts or our minds. If reading this does nothing else, I hope it encourages you to take time for yourself to heal, to rest, and to process. 

Remember to be kind to each other. 

Try to remember to check in with yourself and the people you care about, instead of becoming checked out. 

Let yourself feel whatever it is you feel, and be there for others as you’re able. 

Most of all, remember Honoree Fleming. 

Learn a little something about her life, her important scientific work, her impact on those who knew her. 

Maybe you’ll start to wish you had known her, too.

– Oliver Allen

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