Katie had the biggest eyes I had ever seen. But maybe that was because the world was still so fresh and new to her. She was only 18 when she left her family home for the first time to attend the University of Hull in Kingston-Upon-Hull, England. Her love and compassion were so great, she still felt connected to her family and fiancé even though they were now a hundred miles away. Katie didn’t seem stressed by the change in her life, though. Instead, she seemed endlessly excited to face every new challenge with a bright smile and a determined fearlessness normally inherent in most young people.
Though she was embracing a new life with strength and determination, Katie was still not ready to give up some of her young girl ways. She moved into her student house with a suitcase full of clothes, books, and a menagerie of cuddly friends. A trunkload of furry, stuffed animals lived underneath a large array of photos of family and friends that were tacked up in random order on her yellow bedroom wall. The glassy-eyed bunnies, dogs, and ducks sat on her narrow hard bed all year and sometimes Katie would tuck them snugly under her heavy quilt before leaving for classes in the morning. Her long dark hair would be wrapped up in a high bun or bouncing in curls down her back as she ran for the bus or walked in the cool English wind to campus. Katie was studying fashion and set design for the theater. She loved going to the cinema and enjoyed live theater. She was a talented actress who loved music and had no fear of a dance floor.
I thought I knew Katie very well. We were roommates at the University of Hull. I was the exchange student from America. I was the older, weird foreigner that Katie randomly got stuck with during her first year. Katie, however, didn’t seem to mind. She embraced me as a member of her family. I was her older, gypsy sister from the very first day we meet. I remember Katie’s excitement in meeting her “first, real live American!” I remember the warmth and kindness she extended to me the night it was my turn to cook the student meal for my house and I burnt the food so badly we all went to bed hungry that night. Katie had wrapped her arms around me and hugged me close as I cried from embarrassment, shame, and guilt for starving everyone. Though Katie and I would go shopping and to the cinema together, though we would relax together over endless cups of tea, though we would lie in our separate beds, together in the dark, talking into the night, there were times when Katie would be the bratty kid sister to my worldly older sibling mindset. At times, I would push her away while demanding my space. I would become annoyed when she would read my newspaper directly over my right shoulder. I would complain when she opened my mail before I got home or wanted to hang out with my dates and me. I cringed when she went through my luggage and criticized my fashion sense or lack thereof.
Katie always seemed to understand, though, when I became frustrated. She would slowly and sorrowfully back away from me. But then like most younger sisters, she would be right by my side again the next morning; she would once more laugh, play, and lift me up whenever I felt like I was falling down. For that year, we were family, at times close and loving; at others annoyed and upset with each other. But sisters all the same.
A year later, Katie and I hugged good-bye as we shared whispered promises to stay in touch and write often. Katie would be continuing her studies at the University of Hull, while I returned to the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas, America.
But the years sped so quickly by and life got in the way, and Katie and I started to travel in separate directions. Over the years, we lost touch, which is something I continue to regret.
I thought of Katie over the years and wondered if she married her fiancé and what kind of wedding they had. I wondered how many children Katie raised or if she had decided to dedicate her life to the arts. Knowing Katie’s exuberant personality, she probably was superwoman, putting tremendous effort into motherhood and career and was exceptional at both.
Now, after many months of escaping from my thoughts, Katie’s sweet smile, big eyes, long hair, and enthusiastic personality have been on mind since Monday, May 22, 2017. Around 4 pm that day, I learned that there had once more been a suicide bomber who killed himself along with 22 innocent young people. Over 100 people were injured and fifty-nine of those people were in the hospital. The bombing occurred directly after an Arianna Grande concert in Manchester, England.
Katie and her family lived in Manchester, England.
I don’t know yet if Katie and her family are safe. I don’t know if she was even at the concert. I wish now more than ever that I had never lost contact with her.
I am older now and so much wiser and I’m beginning to realize a few things. Over the years, I have regretted the things that I didn’t do more than the things I did. But I mainly regret the moments when I could have loved another person or maintained a friendship, but didn’t make the effort. Regretting people is so much harder than regretting events. Do you ever get the opportunity to say I love you again? I can change events. I can alter the course of my life. But I can’t always go back and rewrite relationships especially when I don’t even know where to find that particular person again.
It’s been hard to hear about the terrorist attacks over the last few years. Europe (France, Belgium, London) holds incredibly special memories for me, and I suffer horrible heartaches when all of the beautiful places I have loved so much have been destroyed. But this time, I intimately know someone whose hometown was attacked by terrorism and my heart has been completely broken.
I think about Katie now and pray that she and her family are safe. And I really pray that it is not too late to say something so incredibly simply.
I’m so grateful, Katie, that you were my special, sweet roommate for my year in England. Thank you.
I miss you, Katie.
I love you.
Prayers for Manchester