The following are rememberances of the four victims of the car accident that killed four students Jan. 17.
Early this fall, I went over to a friend’s room for a little college football-watching session. Andrew Dwyer was there, of course — would he ever miss an opportunity to hang out and watch football? — but something was different about him. Something about his hair —
He had cut his hair into a mullet.
And this wasn’t your everyday, hockey-player, I-missed-a-haircut, accidental mullet. It was a work of art: top hair slicked back, side hair shorn almost to the point of nonexistence. Business in front, party in the back.
Meanwhile, Andrew had on his classic ensemble — Fisher’s Island golf shirt, shorts, and Reefs — hardly congruent with the new ‘do.
“I like the haircut,” I remarked.
Those of you who knew Andrew know what happened next. He shrugged, as if it were nothing out of the ordinary, and in a completely serious tone explained,
“I’m just keeping it real.”
I’m going to miss his sense of humor.
It was subtle, hard to explain in writing, but never failed to make me laugh to the point where I felt self-conscious. I can remember exactly how he delivered his trademark lines, and the look on his face when he’d say them. He was always smiling–that’s what I remember most.
From time to time, at like 2 a.m., we’d have long, earnest conversations, sometimes outside Toad’s, sometimes on Instant Messenger, in which we’d discuss the important things in life: TV shows and movie quotes, usually.
I consider myself a movie quote connoisseur, but he had me smoked every time. I stumped him once, pulling out the “meow” line from “Super Troopers,” which he immediately contested because “Super Troopers” was not a classic, and he had not seen it.
“‘Super Troopers’ is a modern classic,” I said.
He looked at me, shaking his head, clearly displeased.
“The only modern classics are ‘Austin Powers,’ early Adam Sandler, and Chris Farley movies,” he said with a seriousness usually reserved by most people for discussing the economy or politics.
I’m going to miss our conversations.
They were sometimes serious, sometimes sarcastic, always funny, always refreshing. Andrew kept me on my toes, and if I made a comment, a joke, or a statement that wasn’t up to par, he’d let me know.
Last Wednesday, a week ago from the time I write this, Andrew walked me home from Toad’s. This was nothing new — he’d helped me home from many a Toad’s night — but this time I was quite a handful. I’d lost my jacket somewhere inside and was cold and in tears, worried what my mom would do to me when she found out that I was down a jacket, cell phone, and wallet.
But like the friend he was, Andrew dealt with me. He gave me his jacket and walked me to my room. On the way, I managed to trip and fall, biting partway through my tongue in the process and sending myself into hysterics.
The next day, he sent me an IM, teasing me for being, in his words, an emotional roller coaster. I told him I’d bring his jacket by his room.
When I got there, he had already left for New York City.
I’m going to miss his friendship.
I still have the cut in my tongue that I sustained that night. I figured he’d be giving me a hard time about it when he saw me next. I never would have thought that it would outlast him.
I’ve been completely devastated lately, but then I get some images in my mind — Andrew as a roll of Lifesavers on Halloween, Andrew dancing it up at the DKE formal, Andrew heating up leftover sesame chicken on his George Foreman Grill, Andrew kicking back at his house on Fisher’s, Andrew lighting up when I mentioned his favorite two words: “Joe Millionaire,” Andrew wandering around the DKE backyard, missing a flip-flop but never missing a smile — and somehow, it makes me feel better.
He was always happy, he was always making everyone around him happy, and most importantly, he was always surrounded by people who loved him, right up until the end.
Andrew, I’m going to miss you.
— Katie Baker ’05
I am Sean Fenton’s second cousin andÊI live in California. I last saw Sean on Thanksgiving day. Upon hearing the news of the auto accident that took these four youngÊmen’s lives I was greatly saddened. I too have a child away at college, and every parent worries that something tragic could happen to your child while their away from home. As far as Sean goes, he was on the path to success. He was a bright and intelligent individual who was also kind and caring. My son who has aspirations of going to college and playing football talked with Sean. Sean took the time to talk to him about what he could do to help himself and also gave him hope and confidence to achieve this. Society will surely miss him and the contributions that he would have made. As far as the other young men, I’m sure that they too were heading in the right direction. My thoughts and prayers go out to all friends and family members of these young men. God bless these young men and their memories. May we hold on to them forever.
— Richard Schmidt
It is with great sadness that I’ve watched the tragic events unfold over the past week. Such fine young men — our brothers — lost through what was, essentially, a random act of fate.
In many ways, the fatalistic nature of the tragedy makes it even more difficult to accept. Why them? Why now? If only they’d been a few seconds slower or faster — it tolls like a dirge in my head.
Yet, I’m reminded that fate works in funny ways. Their fate, as tragic as it was, will have ripple effects across all of the lives of the Phi Brothers, of DKE brothers everywhere. It will change the fates of the members of the Yale baseball and football teams, of all the Yale athletic teams. It will influence and redirect the fates of all Yale College students, Yale graduate students, Yale employees, Yale administration, Yale faculty. It will, as it has already with me, change the lives of all Yale alumni.
Once again, I am reminded how fleeting and precious life is. How meaningful the words “carpe diem” really are. How unique and special the Yale community is. How important my family is to me.
The death of our brothers was a real tragedy, but in their passing, they have given us a gift. They have given us the opportunity to influence our own fates, to embrace the ripple of change passing through our lives and use it in a positive way.
I, for one, will make more of an effort to understand and appreciate those with whom I live, work and play. It’s the least I can do.
Mourn we must. But we must also go forward, with courage, and accept their gift.
— Wes Bray ’74 DKE ’74
The Yale tragedy, which took four astonishing young men with yet only a suggestion of their full potential, brings into sharp focus the nightmare we as parents are all too familiar with. As parents, we bring our children into the world and at some point give them up to explore the world, knowing of both the wonders and the dangers. As a parent of a Yale graduate, I am certainly aware of the wonders available to them at such a place as Yale. We also know the dangers; on those late nights when there repeatedly is no answer on the cell phone, or when you just know they should have arrived and have not yet called in, we all know the nightmare so well. As such, we are all their parents as we share the collective, agonizing grief from this overwhelming loss. We pray that there will be some small solace to the families, friends and the Yale community in the knowledge that these four stars will continue to shine brilliantly in the minds and hearts of all who were touched by their light and their accomplished albeit brief lives. We pray for the total recovery of those still struggling with injuries and for the rest of us, we pray that we can force the nightmare back into our subconscious.
— Susan Burhans Schlossberg, Parent ’01
I first met Sean Fenton when he was about 5 years old. He was an adorable little boy. I remember meeting him for the first time. He was sitting on the sofa in the family room in his home. His baby brother, Avery, was seated in an infant seat close by Sean. Sean was very focused on some toy he had with him, but responded politely to my questions, as I tried to engage him in conversation. Sean was on the quiet side, a gentle child. I was always impressed with his manners. Even then his sensitivity was evident. This little boy would certainly grow up to be a kind man. As the years passed and I would see him from time to time I couldn’t believe how tall he was growing. He was suddenly becoming the gentle giant his friends seemed to know. I teased his dad about the fact that his son was now looking down on him. His mom and dad were so proud of Sean. He was the type of son most parents dream of having. I last saw him recently and remember walking away thinking what a great young man he was. He was a gift to his family and his friends. I cannot comprehend the magnitude of his loss. I can only offer my own prayers for Sean, his family and friends. To keep his spirit alive will be to retain the “gift.”
A family friend who cares deeply,
Newport Beach, Calif.
Always Remember This:
When you look back on Friday, January 17, always remember this:
What happened was neither your fault, nor theirs
What happened was a total freak accident, and cannot be explained
What happened was simply a matter of being at the wrong place at the wrong time
When you think about the four young men who died, always remember this:
They were more than just people; to you, to me, to everyone who knew them
They were sons, brothers, students, friends, teammates, heroes and icons
They were gifted in so many ways, and always carried a smile to make your day
When you feel like you want to cry, always remember this:
There is no need to be down, but it is okay if you are, because it can help ease the pain
There is an unfortunate truth that says you cannot change the past, but you should keep in mind that
There is nothing they would want more, then to see you continue on with cherished memories
When you recognize the sad reality of it all, always remember this:
We are not expected to find reason in many of life’s events
There is no need for solitary grievance, because we are all in this together
The fond memories of these truly astonishing men will never leave our minds and hearts
In loving memory of Kyle, Sean, Andrew, and Nick, some of whom I knew, and none of whom I’ll ever forget —
— Meera Shankar ’05
There was this great guy on my Deer Hill trip — The first week he was really shy, but occasionally he would crack some joke or one-liner that would have us laughing so hard we would fall out of our Crazy Creeks. In Canyon De Cheylle we surveyed land and built a fence, all the while dodging barbed wire and cacti that would impair his “baby-making ability.” At night we would play Mafia; if I would smile he’d accuse me of being the killer, if I didn’t smile he’d accuse me of being the killer, keeping us in hysterics all the while. When I whined he would call the “wambulance” to keep me in check. In the mountains, the air wambulance boarded frequently at 12,000 feet. He kept me laughing through rough spots and dragged me up the mountain when I thought I would topple over from the weight of my pack. Throughout the trip he dodged all green food and drooled over the cheeseburgers he dreamt of. At our final barbeque he managed to eat five cheeseburgers and three bowls of ice cream, patting his belly with that signature Andrew smile.
— Alyson Sudow ’04
Kyle was my student in Freshman English during the fall semester of 2001. In the aftermath of Sept. 11, our first-semester freshmen felt especially dislocated and confused, and Kyle quickly established himself as one of the leaders and emotional fulcrums in the class. As all who knew his baseball career can testify, Kyle was a man of vitality and action. But he also cultivated a contemplative and considerate perspective, which carried over into everything that he said and wrote. He was able to transfer the discipline, level-headedness, meticulousness and maturity that had evolved in his role as a pitcher to all his work and relationships. A baseball aristocrat, hailing from the land of Maddox and Smoltz, he never quite accepted the fact that we were playing the same game “up here” that he had excelled at most of his life — all of which provided our class with an unexpected and delightful subtext which played out through the semester.
I understand from the newspaper that Kyle’s father Larry Burnat is an Atlanta attorney; Kyle may well have inherited an affinity for research and argument. His major assignment for our class was an assessment of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which had major implications for American society, involving such diverse spheres as business, architectural design and education. Kyle saw flaws in some ADA policies and argued for a rational, but humane, approach which would best serve the interests of all Americans, and not put any institutions at risk. His final draft read more like an erudite amicus curiae brief than a freshman research paper, and I encouraged him to send his work to fellow Georgian Newt Gingrich. I was not at all surprised last summer when he wrote to me that he had been spending his vacation in Washington, D.C., assisting Sen. Zell Miller.
I think that there was a lot to Kyle, a lot more than any one of his friends or teachers could have known; it could not have been always easy for Kyle to be Kyle. His work for me was very good, and I expected it to get even better as he grew into a man. It is not such a big secret that teachers, like parents, live vicariously through the young people whom they mentor, and I was looking forward to important work from Kyle. We have all been made this much poorer.
— Timothy Robinson
Lecturer, Yale Classics and English departments