August 7, 2011 was the worst day of my life.
My eyes start to water as I even write those words. Even a full year later, it still hurts so much to recall that time from last summer. As much as I strain to tell the story, I want the legacy of my Drum Major to be known by everyone.
I think with most freshmen in marching band, the key leader and person they look up to is their Head Drum Major. I didn’t know very many people on my first day of band camp, but I did know one person I could definitely trust to lead me in the right direction was my Head Drum Major, Alexander. I bet that everyone in my band could unanimously agree that one word to describe Alexander was “enthusiastic.” When I would feel like sitting out during camp and when I didn’t feel like I had enough energy left to perform, Alexander would be there pushing me and the rest of the band. He wanted our band to be the best it’s ever been, and he would not rest until we were pushed to our limits. And even then, he wanted to raise the bar. My first day of band camp, I actually nearly passed out. I ran out of basics block as soon as my eyes started to black out, and I ran underneath the shady spot outside. Alexander came over a few minutes later to check if I was okay. He only said a few things to me, but it was enough to make me want to get back out there and try my hardest. I don’t know how someone can have that much influence
Watching him conduct during music blocks first sparked my interest in becoming a Drum Major. I wanted to be like Alexander. I often pushed away my thoughts though, and I would compare myself to Alexander. I would tell myself that I could never be like him. The comparisons still cross my mind a lot as I’m conducting or trying to lead. But instead of scolding myself about not being as great as him, I strive as hard as I can to make the decisions that I think he would make. When I am Drum Major, I will be as great as him. I’m going to make him so proud.
The summer of my freshman year went by so quickly. Soon enough, it was full band camp, the most excruciating camp of the summer. It’s every day in August up until school starts from noon to 9 pm. The first week of full band camp was going pretty well. We had perfected our half time show and on that Friday, we were starting drill for our competitive show, The Laws of Motion. I hadn’t seen much of Alexander on Friday. He wasn’t feeling well during the outside portion in the morning and he wasn’t outside again with us at night to conduct the competitive show. Our assistant Drum Major was on the head podium and was giving us directions and conducting instead. I was thirteen steps behind the front sideline, and three steps inside the right 40 yard line. As I tried to focus on doing good on the reps of our drill, I couldn’t help but to look at Alexander, lying very limp under the shade covering. It was very hard to see the strongest person I know look so weak. I tried very hard to stay focused on learning the competitive show, but it was hard to when the ambulance drove up.
The last time I saw Alexander, he was being carried into the ambulance. It even looked like he was fighting. He didn’t want to leave us.
By Saturday, so many rumors were already forming about Alexander. I chose not to listen to any of them. Rumors of diseases, injuries, strokes were spread around. I kept telling myself that he was okay. I knew he would end up being perfectly fine and there to conduct us on Monday. I went to the pool with my best friend that weekend and we talked about how much we liked Alexander. It was hard not to like him, really. People started to make a really big deal about Alexander, though. A few band members planned an event to meet at the park next to our school to pray for him to get better quickly. My friends invited me, but I said no. I’m not a religious person at all. I didn’t think I would belong at the park praying for my leader that I thought would be back soon. My one friend even called me again to make sure that I didn’t want to go. I stayed home.
I was reading a book when I got the worst phone call of my life. I picked up my phone when it started to ring and I answered confused. The girl who called me was just another freshman, a classmate and flute player. She was crying heavy sobs. She told me to go on facebook. I didn’t even know what was going on, but I had a feeling that it was about Alexander. Tears started to roll down my face and I grabbed my mom’s iPhone to go on facebook. There was one new notification. It was from the band’s facebook page. A trumpet player had written that Alexander was dead. I threw my phone on my mom’s bed and I started to sob. And I wouldn’t stop sobbing. I didn’t want to believe it. I still don’t want to believe it.
I don’t remember exactly what happened after that, but my mom drove me to the park next to my school. It was raining a lot like it is outside my house right now. I stumbled out of my car and started to walk towards the pavilion. I saw one of my best friends and I ran into her arms. I wailed and sobbed. I hugged everyone in that pavilion that night. I saw my band director cry for the first time that night. He screamed and cried as we all did.
I didn’t want to make this story depressing. But as the tears flow from my face as I write this, it’s hard to keep it lighthearted. Alexander wasn’t a depressing person, and I don’t want people to remember him and feel sad. He was the reason for someone of the happiest times in my life.
In the end, we carried out Alexander’s plans for our band. We built his legacy. I’ll never forget him for the rest of my life. My bracelets with his name on them might be fading, and the red streak I put in my hair dedicated to him may be orange, but I will never forget Alexander. I will carry his legacy whenever I am marching, leading, or conducting.
Today marks the one year anniversary of this tragic day, and I ask all who read this to please keep Alexander’s parents and sister in your thoughts and prayers. They are a few people who I love very much in this world.
~Building a Legacy~