He shined the brightest when he was with the kids. Classmate reflection

Dear Dan and Susie,

I’m writing this a day before it’ll be three months that Zach’s been gone (September 12, 2017) . It hasn’t been easy for me, so I can’t imagine how hard it’s been for your family. Your words of hope and of action really spoke to me at the funeral. It’s easy to feel like there’s a gaping hole in our communities, and, while I don’t think it’ll every disappear, your call to be more like Zach felt like a way to carry him with me.

I’ll be the first to admit that Zach and I didn’t always get along. We both had pretty strong personalities and ended up clashing sometimes at CFMS and even sometimes beyond. Even in our moments of difference, I still valued his strength, compassion, and unique way of seeing things. My favorite memories are when we came together and worked together. I don’t know if you remember, but we were Model UN partners for that New York trip his 6th grade year, and we represented Tanzania together. He was passionate about our issues in committee and such a goofball outside of it. I remember he and Jamie tied their ties around their heads and that one morning, we went out to breakfast, and he insisted on ordering the biggest dish on the menu and then almost made himself sick trying to finish it. Much later, we were co-counselors for Peace camp a few summers ago. He shined the brightest when he was with the kids. He listened patiently to long, rambling stories, laughed at their jokes, and encouraged their ideas. I remember this one afternoon it was brutally hot outside, and we were both tired, but the kids wanted to play amoeba tag. I begged off and supervised from the shade, but he found the energy to run around with them.

It’s been hard going off to college and leaving behind the people who knew and appreciated Zach. I’m at Pomona College in California. I love my school so far, but I knew no one going into school, and Jamila’s brother Rafi is one of the only people in the area who knew Zach. As I left for college, I made a conscious effort to take on some of my favorite qualities that Zach had, his ability to listen well, connect with everyone he met, and his generosity and compassion towards those he cared about. I think it’s easy when you’re in a new place to focus on yourself, your feelings, and how overwhelming the new experience is, but Zach’s example and his light pushed me to break this mold. I want to thank you both for reminding us of that example at the funeral. I believe that I’ve cultivated close friendships so early in college because I listened more carefully and connected more genuinely than I would have had I not been consciously trying to follow his example and your call to action.  I’m going to keep carrying him in my heart. I’m going to make more friends, seek out more people who are different or seem like the other, and get involved in service to others in my surrounding community here. I was afraid that I would be sad and lonely around this time of the month when I was remembering him more, but I’m just sad. I don’t feel alone because Zach has helped me make friends here.

I just want to say thank you again. Thank you for your beautiful words and your courageous hope on that hard day. Zach continues and will continue to bring people together.

Peace to you both,