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LJ Idol Week 8: No Comment

It was a rainy late afternoon in August. The local guitar store was having its grand opening. They promised snacks and beer so a bunch of us from the library went to the festivities. We live in a small college town in West Texas so these kinds of events usually draw up a crowd. The rain stopped and we gathered on a picnic table by the new Thai food truck. D., a student worker at the library, was there and was ranting to me about various 4-chan conspiracy theories when I introduced myself to a girl I'd never met before. She was cute and very small, a bit drunk from the free booze.

"My name is Zuzu" she had said.
"Lulu?" I asked.
"Zuzu," she repeated "I know, it's kinda weird." I got the feeling this was something she had to say a lot throughout her life. She didn't stay for long, leaving with her boyfriend while we stayed a little longer, D. still going on about Big Brother keeping their eyes cued in on 4-chan.

The last time I saw her, I think I was in my car and she was crossing the circle in front of school and waved at me, probably headed to class. I always remember the last time I see someone.

It's late October and the campus gets news that Zuzu has been missing for several days. Immediately suspicion is directed at the boyfriend. She was last seen with him late at night. D. is taken into custody and made a suspect in the case. The police release him after he is cleared, but he is broken over the situation and has to leave school for the rest of the semester, unable to stay in town. I gave him a big hug when he said his goodbyes to his friends from the library. I asked if he was intending to come back, he said he didn't know.

That weekend, the town rallies for a massive search, organized by her fellow students and friends. We split into groups led by a law enforcement officer and comb the town, searching in dumpsters, through weeds in the blistering 90 degree sun. We get sunburned. When my coworker asks if I intended to go, I said I would help, but I said that if Zuzu is alive, she is probably far away from here...

Zuzu's disappearance becomes the talk of town. You can't avoid it anywhere. Everyone knows that her boyfriend did something to her, but he is completely clamped up, he gets a lawyer to represent him. The school president addresses everyone about safety and Zuzu's disappearance, saying the law enforcement is doing all they can. D. comes back into town for the start of the Spring Semester. We are all happy to see him and find out he's decided to finish his education here since we weren't sure if he'd ever come back. He adopted Zuzu's dog, Ponyo, after she disappeared and said the dog has helped him recover, although I don't think he can fully recover.

Finally, last week it was discovered that remains were found in a shallow grave just outside of town. Many people thought they finally found Zuzu, I thought that at least her boyfriend would have buried her far away but it turned out to be her. Finally her family could have closure to an end that everyone was anticipating. Her boyfriend and his friend were immediately arrested after the remains were found. Many of his friends and family probably helped try to cover her murder. We can only hope that they stay in prison for a long, long time.

Her memorial service was held at the newly-built amphitheater on campus last night. It seemed like half the town came in support of her, many people didn't know her, others like me barely knew her, but we learned about her through the words of her friends and family. She was named after the little girl from the famous film "It's a Wonderful Life". She loved the Beatles, which were played and performed at her service. She was a passionate learner who constantly challenged her fellow students and professors. She was enthusiastic about protecting the environment and loved hiking and camping. She was in the conservation biology program, one of very few students who were a close-knit group, and worked with pronghorn antelope in the area, often going out in the field to tag them and take samples. She was described as "sassy" and "a spitfire", she had an infectious smile and wanted to be friends with everyone. I felt I like I learned a great deal about her from what her closest friends and family had to say about her.

She had a very bright future which was cut short at the age of 21 when she associated with a jealous and violent person. That night after we went home, I thought about her and was sad to know that the last moments of her life must have been filled with terror. That is no way for anyone to go, and even though no one really can publicly mention what might have been her last moments, we all know the grim reality.

At her service, it was announced that the Amphitheater would be named after her, and a scholarship for the Conservation Biology program was created in her honor. The speech her professor gave about the impact Zuzu made on her life and her students' lives resonated with me the most. She ended with a quote from Thoreau which truly encapsulated Zuzu.

All good things are wild and free

Zuzu is free now, and her family is too. She is probably out with the pronghorn antelope now, immersed in the field and in nature where she truly belongs. She doesn't have to go back home anymore but her legacy lives on.



( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 10th, 2017 08:11 pm (UTC)
This was very touching and so moving...
Feb. 12th, 2017 09:08 pm (UTC)
Thank you for including the link to the news article. You did an outstanding job with this. It has such a mournful tone, and carries the reader through to the inevitable, tragic conclusion.
Feb. 13th, 2017 01:14 am (UTC)
How very sad, and moving.
Feb. 13th, 2017 04:04 am (UTC)
That's so sad. What an awful thing to happen to a young woman, and all you can think about is all the "more" she would have given and done had this not happened.

This was very well-written non-fiction, and I think you really can get a sense of who someone was from the friends and family who talk about them. It's one of the reasons for memorial services-- sharing the knowledge of that person, her specialness, who she was, brings rare comfort to her loved ones. Others will know and grieve, and she will not pass from this earth unnoticed.
Feb. 13th, 2017 08:59 am (UTC)
Sad, bittersweet in its way with that Thoreau quote at the end. Good entry!
Feb. 14th, 2017 02:39 pm (UTC)
This has been such a disturbing event, you really brought out the pointless horror of such a tragic ending.
Feb. 14th, 2017 07:11 pm (UTC)
I think the tone here is excellent. It could have gone too maudlin or too flippant, but you did it just right.
Feb. 16th, 2017 03:02 pm (UTC)
A heartbreaking story! I'm without words. Your handling of this event is tremendous.

Feb. 16th, 2017 07:42 pm (UTC)
So sad! I'm so sorry!
Feb. 16th, 2017 10:16 pm (UTC)
Very sad situation. good job on putting this incident into words.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )