Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Tragedy in VA -- W&M Fencing

As some of you may know, I was on the fencing team throughout my time at Virginia Tech. One of the many other schools that competed in Virginia was William & Mary. During the weekend of November 10th one of the cars traveling with their team during a trip for a competition was involved in a crash. This crashed killed their coach Pete Conomikes and injured the members of the team that were also in that car. I just found out that although two of the injured players are OK, one of those team members Ben Gutenberg has died from his injuries. He was a freshman.

There are many things that have gone through my mind the past few weeks about this accident. One was that I wish I had been more involved in MACFA to have known Pete better (he coached the men's team, W&M doesn't have a women's team). Everyone has always revered him as a great coach, especially among those teams that are club and not varsity (i.e. all VA teams). I am sure the Ben was also a fabulous person, with a wonderful life ahead of him. On another note, I'm extremely thankful that it was not the VTFC involved in the crash. I'm quite sad that someone has died, and his death has hit many of the fencers at VT hard enough without it being a fellow Hokie. I can barely imagine the pain I would feel if one of my friends still at VT was killed on their way to a tournament.

It also reminds me a lot of what traveling to tournaments is often like. Many times you either have to leave very early in the morning the day of the event or in the late afternoon or evening the day before the event, because students can't get out of classes on time to leave earlier. It is common to need to drive at night on the way home from a tournament as well. For our team, the drivers are always team members. What is so scary about the W&M crash is that it really reminds me of how easily it could have been us. It still could happen to them. The one thing that puts my mind at least partially at ease is knowing that we always tried to have older more experienced people driving, always ensured that the people driving were not worn out, and always made sure to switch off drivers so no one became fatigued. I am in no way implying that W&M did not do these things, but at least I know VT fencers are working to try to make their trips as safe as possible. Hopefully their luck will continue to hold out. What a way to be reminded about how dangerous it is to drive.

My heart truly goes out to all of the W&M fencers. I've met a few over the years but I think everyone I had met has since graduated. Still, I wish them the best and I hope that their hearts heal. I hope their team is able to heal over time, that they will still travel for their tournaments next semester (sometimes getting back into it can be the best thing for you), and that no other disaster befalls them. Life has become too short for too many this year.

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