October 2 1987
Just a split second in time
by Janelle Slaughter
It all happened in one second. A friend of Pete called my house at 1:00 AM, crying, and briefly explained in broken sentences that Pete went for a late swim and dove off a pier, head first, where the water was really shallow. Scott's voice was shaking. "They rushed him to the hospital, so he still might have a chance. Tell Steve to hurry down here when he gets home." Click. How was I supposed to tell my brother that one of his best friends might die?
I lay in bed, awake, that night for a long time, thinking: a 19-year-old, energetic disc-jockey-to-be had his whole life ahead of him, just like I do, and had so much to live for, just like I do. And in a flash of a second, he could have died, just like I could do at any time.
Then I thought that if I asked him how he would live those 19 years differently, he probably would have told me that he would have changed parts of it, at least a little. But then I related the question to myself, wondering what I would do if I were to die in a given amount of time. Then I wondered why I wasn't doing it now.
A few days later, we all sat around talking about Pete. The doctors said that he would live, but probably in a paralysis state for the rest of his life. Scott said something that shocked me, at first, but then made sense. "It sounds terrible to say this, but I think it's kind of good that this happened." I looked at his face, searching for an explanation, but it was expressionless -- numb like the faces of everyone else. After a long pause, he explained that this accident made everyone realize the value of time, the power of death, the limit on life. It made us all see that every moment must be valued and that life is not limitless.
So what I've been thinking ever since that night is that we have to value each moment, and we can't just live for the future. I remember watching Leo Buscaglia on Channel 11 saying "There isn't time in life to do it all, so I've got to do it now. Value every moment as if it really is your last, because it might very well be." I see friends of mind so full of ambition, making so many plans for the future. Planning is great, but if you keep saying to yourself, "If I can just get my grades good enough to get into Harvard, then I'll really live; when I just get into grad school, then my life will be really great; when I get my first job and make tons of money, then my life will really be worth living," then you just live in the future and miss what's happening now. I think it was Thoreau who said that the saddest moment is "to reach to the point of death only to find that you have never lived at all."