When Tundun Lawani was struck by a drunk driver, I was fast asleep in my bed in Post, a freshman with no frame of reference for the tragedy which would grow to become, if subtly, an integral part of my Knox experience. I read the email in the morning like everybody else who did not know her and felt the pang of fear which became empathetic sadness which became, essentially, nothing. It was not that I did not care but that it was not my loss to grieve.
As my college experience draws to a close — and by this I mean that, even though it’s Fall Term, every moment as a senior begins to feel like an ending — I notice that I cannot use the crosswalk on South Street without the memorial photograph of Tundun in the back of my mind.
I did not know her. She is not mine to miss. But, as those who loved her spoke to News Editor Rachel Landman, Associate News Editor Kiannah Sepeda-Miller and I during our collaboration on a memorial article over the course of this week, they reiterated time and again that she was — that she is — a part of this community. That no Knox student, current or future, should be able to use the crosswalk on South Street where she was fatally injured without the picture of her expansive, stunning smile in the back of their mind. She was a daughter, a sister, a leader, a friend, a student, a consistent source of encouragement and joy to those around her, and not one of those things ought ever to be forgotten.
But for those of us who never knew her, she absolutely must also be a reminder.
Because I did not only work on Tundun’s memorial article this week: I also assisted Co-Mosaic Editor Nadia Spock on a collaborative piece about the prominence of catcalling around the Knox campus. Every interview I conducted for two weeks, every interview for both stories, centered inescapably around South Street, the road I take to and from my apartment at least once a day.
South Street is maybe not inherently unsafe, but it exists as a borderline at the center of which lies liminal space, neither Galesburg nor Knox.
As Tundun’s memory was celebrated and mourned by her family, friends and professors, as women my age recalled stories of harassment and terror at the hands of strangers, there was South Street, the common ground, the site of so much pain for this community I love.
What I am left with as these stories undergo final edits is an acute awareness of my own body.
Maybe not awareness. Maybe fear.
I leave Galesburg less and less now, staying over breaks to work for Admissions. This place is becoming my home. But when I think of “this place” and “home,” I have to reassess and acknowledge that in no way do I mean “Galesburg” when I say “this place.” I mean Knox. I’d venture to say that most of us do.
Because every time I walk across South Street I am afraid for my body. I am afraid because, as a senior and thus a member of the last class who shared time at Knox with Tundun Lawani, I remember that she was fatally injured as she walked the line between campus and community.
I am afraid because, as a student and a pedestrian, I know that this might be the (50th) time a man shouts explicit and threatening comments out his car window as he speeds past.
I am afraid because I don’t know how to grieve the loss of a truly remarkable person who I was never able to meet. I don’t know how to process the role I play in the schism between Knox and Galesburg every time I use the word “townie” or refer to the place I’ve sort-of called home for three years as “sketchy.”
I don’t know whether to believe we, as students, can bridge the divide.
But that’s why we have to remember. Tundun’s loss is a scar, and every October when the weather turns cold, the old wound will ache. We have to let it. We have to feel it.