Silver Chips Online

Uniting under a common loss

Freshman Tai Lam leaves behind a valuable legacy

November 1, 2008
If ever there was a time for Montgomery Blair High School to come together, itís now. The death of freshman Tai Lam last week was a tragic reminder of just how short life can be and just how quickly death can come. We are a school in mourning.

We must become a school united.

Death has a unique power to either bring people close or pull them apart. Blair now faces a pivotal choice: Do we confront this tragedy as a single community or do we allow menial divisions to drive us apart? For the sake of this school and, more importantly, for the sake of Taiís memory, we must choose the former. Though his death has cast a shadow over the school, we cannot let that shadow cloud our memory of the way he lived his life and the way we must strive to live ours.

Lam had only been at Blair for two months before his death, but if the sea of purple clothing that enveloped the school last week is any indication, his presence and memory still loom large. An Honors student who had hoped to join the wrestling team in the winter, he was, say his friends, a perennially good-natured person. With a penchant for matching outfits and stylish scarves, he was one of the youngest members of Blairís fashion club and an aspirant for Homecoming Court. Even those that didnít know him say they could often find him smiling and joking around in Downtown Silver Spring. He was an innocent victim of a vicious crime.

Our school has been rocked by tragedy before: The deaths of other Blair students still reverberate throughout Blair years later. But the slaying of a 14-year-old student in a Silver Spring bus is so appalling, it has stirred the conscience of a community. Regardless of whether the crime was gang-related, Lamís death at the hand of a gun was born out of hatred and anger. The gunman has yet to be identified, and the emotional wounds grow deeper with each passing day. Our challenge, now, is to find a way to respond to Lamís death with a capacity to understand and grow.

As a community, how do we move on from here? There are no clear answers to this question - there rarely are in the face of tragedy. But one thing is certain: If we are to overcome this as a school, we first have to heal as a school.

Thus far, the response from Blair staff and students has taken many forms. For some, it has led to an outpouring of sorrow, love and condolences - from Facebook notes to the lengthy messages that adorn the memorial banner on Blair Boulevard. For others, it has been difficult to get past a sense of anger; we, too, feel that the person who committed this crime must be caught and held accountable. But it seems the best way for us to honor Lam is to channel our grief and frustration into an effort - an effort to show the kindness that Lam so embodied, and that he gave towards people of all different types.

Perhaps the most striking images of this tragedy come from the photographs of the candlelight vigils and various memorials held in the days after Lamís death. They epitomize the sense of despair in a way that no written words can match. But if you attended these services or saw the photographs online, you may have noticed something else: diversity. Students of different races, different backgrounds and different beliefs have come together to pay their final respects. In life as well as death, Lam has been nothing but a positive force for this school.

We can help keep that force alive by remembering how Tai Lam spent his all-too-brief time at Blair. He made an effort to reach out to people, and to care for them. All of us can certainly do the same.

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