Our community was rocked by the news of the disappearance and subsequent passing of one of our own last week. Gerald Smith had been a member of our community for a long time. He participated on Geeks, in our chat room, and even spoke with me via Twitter and email many times. The news of his death hit many of us very hard, and it’s been difficult to wrap our minds around this awful event.
The day we learned of his death, a classmate of his from ISU joined Geeks. Aliya writes for the campus news – the Indiana Statesman. She asked us to submit our thoughts to her to include in an article, which appeared a few days ago. The following is what I wrote to Aliya.
Gerald was a pretty open follower of mine – and he offered the kind of support that few online community members do. While most are intent to lurk, Gerald frequently forwarded resources and shared enthusiasm with everybody else. When his mother reached out to me as a friend earlier this week, I was taken aback. I do not know how Gerald spoke of me to her, but it must have been out of respect.
I did not know Gerald personally, but his passing has certainly touched me – if only because I know that I was a small part of his life. This tragedy was certainly felt far beyond the boundaries of ISU’s campus – and I hope that fellow students realize this.
I do not intend on removing his Geeks network profile unless requested to do so. I hope it serves as a virtual memorial, somewhat frozen in time with his final thoughts and efforts. People need to know that Gerald was as real a person online as he was in the “real world.” His light may have been extinguished far before its time, but the knowledge and passion he shared with us while still alive will be paid forward indefinitely. This community is part of Gerald’s legacy, and we should all be comforted in that – realizing our posts to social networks can touch others in immeasurable ways. A senseless death reminds us all of just how important it is to remain connected with one another in any capacity.
I am honored that Gerald made me a part of his life.
On behalf of our entire community, I extend our thoughts, wishes, support and prayers to Gerald’s family and friends. We are deeply sorry for your loss – and ours. Gerald was a shining example of a young person with an amazing future ahead of them… both online and off.