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Blog Entry Suddenly Personal When Victim Becomes Classmate

October 13, 2010, Edinboro, PA -- Monday I blogged about a motorcyclist who was killed in one of those freaky accidents that happen from time to time, an accident where no one seems to be at fault because it was caused by a deer darting across the road. Today I learned the man was a high school classmate. That changes things. How, exactly, I'm not sure. But it changes things.

We started this blogging thing as part of our commitment to education based marketing. Having concluded that most traditional lawyer advertising offered nothing meaningful to the public and was, in fact, harmful to both our clients and our profession, my partner and I decided to travel a different path.

One element of our education based marketing was our plan to enter blog entries about accident related injuries and deaths. Our thought was to collect stories of these losses in one place in the hopes that they would do a better job than mere statistics of conveying both the volume of area accidents and the intensely personal nature of each harm and loss.

Along the way, though, it got a little impersonal for me. Every morning I follow a routine. I sit down and review the papers and the on-line resources. I look for stories that are pertinent to our blogs. Then I summarize them, link them and try to offer some solace to the injured or their families or perhaps some link to safety information. We know from our experience how these losses play out over time. People grieve. They adapt. They overcome. But the grief comes back fresh when they think about their lost loved one. I don't think the hurt ever goes away, not completely. So, I know how hard it is. Still, the routine got a little mechanical as I blogged away every morning.

Monday I blogged about a Franklin Township man killed when a deer ran in front of his motorcycle. I even typed his name. Didn't make the connection.

This morning I read the obituaries. Ricky L. Banks, 44, was a 1984 graduate of General McLane High School. Ricky! I knew Ricky! I couldn't believe it. The obit said he died in a tragic Edinboro motorcycle accident. Wait a minute. Had I just blogged about this accident? Had I really typed Ricky's name and not made the connection with my old classmate?

My memories of many of my classmates are vague and ill-defined. But Ricky was one of those guys who made an impression even if you weren't in his immediate social circle. A kind, funny guy, Ricky had a smile and a shared joke for everybody he met. I don't think there was a kid in school who didn't enjoy having Ricky around. And that's saying something in a rural, suburban, "University" high school where you've got townies, gownies, suburbanites and FFAers (Future Farmers of America) all forced together in one place.

The obit says Ricky left behind a son, Cody, and a wife, Terry. Terry's maiden name suggests that she's also a GM alum. The obit asks that memorial contributions be made to the New Blossoms New Life Foundation , a charity started by yet another of our classmates and one on which I serve as a member of the board of directors. So many connections. And still, I ignorantly and dispassionately made my blog entry. Wouldn't today have made the connection but for the obit.

I'm sorry, Terry and Cody, for your loss. I'm sorry, too, that I wasn't writing with more empathy when I blogged about this Monday. I'm not sure that my words will be any different as I blog about accidents, injuries and deaths in the future. But I'm going to try not to let it be so mechanical. I'm going to try to remember the terrible losses to good people that these stories represent and keep the pain of their loss close. I wish it hadn't been Ricky in my blog.

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