Ben-Meir: Let us mourn Annie Le

Any tragedy contains within itself an untold number of smaller tragedies. Already, the murder of Annie Le MED ’13 is being discussed as an attack on our most basic sense of security, as an act of violence against our city, as a savaging of the natural order. These interpretations are not incorrect, but they confuse the part for the whole. We cannot allow ourselves to forget that the ultimate tragedy of this week’s events is also the smallest in scale; the event, not its implications. When we mourn, we must mourn Annie Le.

This is not as obvious as it sounds. Many of us, myself included, did not know Le. We learned that she loved pigs-in-a-blanket from a profile written after her disappearance, not from having seen her enjoying hors d’oeuvres at parties. To us, her impending marriage was a provocative detail in her story, not the culmination of an actual love, witnessed and understood. We have no knowledge of her as she lived, we know her only in death.

Is it not almost arrogant for us to mourn her personally, when a week ago we did not know her name? Is it not better for us to come to terms with the effect her death has had on our own lives?

The answer is a resounding no. A woman is dead, a marriage destroyed, a future cut short. If we are human, we cannot escape empathy. Le’s tragedy could have belonged to any of us, our friends, our acquaintances. This is not to say that we should mourn her tragedy because she could have been us. We must mourn because she was us.

In the past few days, the name Annie Le has become detached from the woman who owned it; a woman who sat in this campus’ courtyards, who had small conversations, who was not famous until she died. To me, it seems her death is less an earthquake rending the foundation of our school and more an empty bench where she once rested.

We at Yale are constantly in danger of neglecting events for their consequences, of losing the trees for the forest. We read Langston Hughes as history, at the cost of the lightning in his words; we study the fall of the Berlin Wall as a political event and forget the individual joy felt by so many. In each case, the former interpretation is not incorrect, but it fails to truly account for the weight of what is being observed. I am not blaming professors or criticizing Yale; a curriculum based on empathy would be ludicrous. It falls to each individual to remember the human within the academic. The costs of not doing so are profound.

It would be profane to use Annie Le’s death to warn against over-intellectualization. I mean only to say that if we forget empathy anywhere, it is only natural that we develop a resistance to it everywhere.

Ultimately, we come here to learn what it is to be human, something that can be taught only by inference. In moments like this, when we come together as a community, let us come together not as Yalies or as citizens of New Haven. Let us come together as a community of human lives, the unit of which is the individual life.

Let us mourn Annie Le as Annie Le; a woman, not an idea. She walked these streets; she talked in these halls. She read these books and sat with these friends. She lived here, and she died here. Though we did not know her, we mourn Annie Le.

Ilan Ben-Meir is a sophomore in Trumbull College.


  • Cath

    Lovely. I wish I could write and think like this.

  • meg

    Beautiful. May our prayers be with her family and friends.

  • Alexa

    Indeed….you’ve eloquently summarized what’s in my heart.

  • Sue

    Very well-written. A welcome reminder in these confusing times to not lose sight of the most fundamental elements of our existence.

  • ysm

    Very, very well said.

  • momof2013

    I can not imagine anyone writing anything more appropriate and perfect for this tragedy. Thank you Ilan for sharing your obvious gift for writing combined with your compassion with us. This editorial was amazing.

  • by mom

    Beautifully written. And so thoughtful… Ilan, Thank you for writing this piece.

  • K

    Thank you.

  • Yalie Family

    Very moving, very appropriate. Thank you…

  • Anon

    A beautiful column and perfect way to describe how we ought to respond to this tragedy. Bravo.

  • well said

    Thank you for this thoughtful, mature perspective.

    For many of us who did not know her but are still reeling, this tragedy hits so close to home not because we work or live nearby, but because, as you say, she was us.

    And for as affected as we all are, let’s also not forget how infinitely more difficult this must be for the many people who did know Annie personally, who have lost a friend, colleague, loved one in the most public way possible.

  • a reader

    Excellent article. Keep up the good work–you’re a talented writer.

  • Yale ’09

    Beautiful and so appropriate. Let us keep her family, fiance, and friends in our thoughts and prayers.

  • Hana

    Gorgeous, eloquent, and heart-felt.

    In the words of Mr. John Donne:
    ‘Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.’

    May Annie rest in peace.

  • Daniel’smom’13

    Thank you Ilan for reminding us of our humanity!

  • cynthiaweaver

    I think you’re right Ilan. It is always good to keep things in perspective.

  • Yale mom

    Thank you.

  • TexasTechStudent

    I hope we as students will learn to hold eachother with respect and caution. We will lose friends, as I have, and will gain knowledge through their suffering. I hope we can allow this to make us strong, better friends and more astute as we carry on with our fragile lives.

  • PiersonDad

    Lovely piece, Ilan.

  • CB

    Touching, resounding and true.

    Rest in peace, Annie.

  • Streever

    the best coverage I’ve read yet on this–thank you, and I share your sentiment.

  • Z

    R.I.P. Annie…love all the good faculties and students around the world.

  • Robert

    Plenty of information about Annie Le has been reported about her life, so likely valid assumptions can be made about the type of person she seemed to be.

    Although I live thousands of miles away, and know of Annie Le only because she was murdered, I am saddened by her senseless death, the suffering and lifelong sadness that her fiancee, family, and friends will surely endure. Their lives can never return to what they were before this event.

    So I feel hurt particularly for her fiancee and family.

    And I assure you, outside of the Yale community, people are mourning Annie Le, not an act of violence against a city or institution. I suspect most at Yale, and those within the surrounding community, are doing the same.

  • Robert

    Should you choose to post my previous submission, feel free to correct the grammatical error “fiancee,” in place of “fiance.”

  • Helen Li

    Beautifully written piece and very evocative of the essence of the value of individual human lives. Maybe President Levin, Police Spokesman Avery and Lewis and the Union lady Laura Smith should read this. They are all totally insensitive to Annie’s personal tragedy, slapped a cold administrative label of “work place violence” on her horrific death, and hijack her loss to bang the drums of “need for action for violence against women,” “push for campus safety,” etc. etc. A huge federal funding is fast-tracked, no doubt providing gravy for some quango who issue “reports.” When the court case is concluded, there should be an INQUIRY into Annie’s death. Was she intimidated by Clark who had his family all around him to indulge his bullingly behavior. Why was there no avenues for complaints against him for his “angry” and “officious” behavior. Why was a whole family of under-educated folks able to work in the same lab? Why was it so difficult to sack a union member like Clark? It is offensive, disrespectful to carry on the mantra of “workplace violence.” Annie’s family owns that tragedy, not Yale caring for its reputation.