Last week the Scribe and the Hilbert community lost one of its own.
Brittnay Summers, a sophomore Criminal Justice major, passed away in a car accident on March 31, leaving a void in a campus community, unable to mourn in the traditional sense, separated in an effort to stop others from dying.
I first met Brittnay at the beginning of the semester, mere months ago. Constantly smiling, she was shy at first. But once you got her talking she exuded confidence and happily added to the conversation. She was excited to work on her first story, covering the Digital Media and Communications department’s career fair, and with a little push from myself went around the room conducting interviews, learning on the fly, as is so often the case with people first dipping their toes in the journalistic waters.
She was a natural, her warmth and kindness opening people up to get them talking.
She worked for a security company that contracts with the Buffalo Bills, and was excited by the prospect of scoring an interview with a player for the paper.
And she was always looking to pitch in or help others. When another student mentioned she was looking for work after graduation, Brittnay excitedly offered to get her in with the security company.
For now, we must celebrate her life and mourn her loss from afar. None of the warm embraces, handshakes or fellowship that would normally comfort our community are available. We can’t bond over food, offering stories, and engaging in the deep human connection that is felt while looking one another in the eye.
But that does not mean we cannot honor Brittnay and everything she did to make Hilbert a better place. As a Franciscan institution, it is important that we look to our Catholic roots for guidance in this time of sorrow.
Margaret Smith, Hilbert’s vice president for mission integration and campus ministry, points out that Christians have a long tradition of using prayer and good works as gifts to be sent to one another across time and space.
“A small prayer or sacrifice that I send up to God will be efficacious to someone that I may not be able to see or communicate with,” she said. “So, when someone far from us is hurting, and we cannot be with them physically, we can still join them in this supernatural place outside of time and space, where we are united in God.”
Smith said that one way we can honor Brittnay is by trying to live her unyielding, never-give-up spirit out in our own lives.
“It’s tempting to get swept away by fear and darkness when so many things seem to be falling apart around us,” Smith said. “This is where our faith kicks in. Christian hope isn’t an emotion: it’s a virtue that takes practice and hard work. It is a decision, made over and over again, to turn to light and to trust in God when things are difficult.”
So, as we remember Brittnay from afar, rest assured that we will celebrate her with the same exuberance she brought to our campus whenever it is that we are able to gather together again. Plans are already in the works for a memorial service.
Last week, as part of her call for Britons to stay strong in adhering to social distancing measures, Queen Elizabeth invoked the song “We’ll Meet Again,” a World War II anthem, to build a spirit of solidarity.
I hope we can extend that sentiment to one another, and to Brittnay, as we deal with this tragedy. If you are feeling distraught or desperate in these coming weeks and months, think of Brittnay’s smiling face and sing those hopeful lyrics to yourself.
“We’ll meet again. Don’t know where. Don’t know when. But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day.”
– Justin Sondel