The University of Virginia released an official statement today on the confirmation from the medical examiner in Richmond that the death of Hannah Graham was now a certainty:
“Hannah showed great promise as a student and as a young woman. She brought immense energy and delight to her learning at the University, and she was a source of friendship and joy for so many people here at the University and abroad, particularly her friends on the ski team”
Indeed. in all her endeavors, Hannah seemed to exhibit heart, and was outstanding in the exuberance she had for life, and one need only look into her eyes to see that hers was an immensely joyful spirit.
In his later years, as he was thinking about his plan for educating the next generation, Thomas Jefferson spoke about ‘the illimitable freedom of the human mind’ which he believed to have been sacred:
“… that they should be prepared to receive the holy charge that we are cherishing, to deliver to them; that in establishing an institution of wisdom for them we secure it to all our future generations; that in securing this duty, we bring home to our own bosoms the sweet consolation of seeing our suns rising under a tuition of destinies of high promise.”
He then said as much again, in his 1820 letter to William Roscoe:
“This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”
On the official confirmation of this heartbreaking news – in Alexandria, where the Graham family resides, and in the communities that are home to Hannah’s grandparents, and in in the University of Virginia and the communities surrounding Charlottesville and Albemarle County and in UVa’s sister institution, Virginia Tech, and in communities all around the world today, it is enormously challenging to entertain the concept of governing human interactions through reason, because the reality was that no reason governed the behavior that led to this. Instead there was an overwhelming absence of the joy for life on the part of the individual who is responsible for Hannah’s death.
The Graham family points us to some glimpse of a way to try to perpetuate the joy for life that Hannah presented as her precious gift to the world, in truly remembering who she was.
The University of Virginia’s official statement, today, also includes this passage:
“For Hannah’s young life to end so tragically, and for her destiny of promise to be left unfulfilled, is an affront to the sanctity of life and to the natural order of human events.
This is a sorrowful day in the life of the University, and our entire community is grieving with the Graham family. We offer our sincere condolences for their loss, and we will continue to hold them in our thoughts and prayers in the days ahead.
Teresa A. Sullivan
In their statement today, Sue and John Graham offer each of us some unique words of wisdom, in these remarks:
“When we started this journey together we all hoped for a happier ending. Sadly that was not to be, but due to the tenacity and determination of Chief Longo, Hannah is coming home to us and we will be eternally grateful to him for this.
“Although we have lost our precious Hannah, the light she radiated can never be extinguished. We will hold it in our hearts forever and it will help sustain us as we face a painful future without her. We are so very proud of Hannah and all that she achieved. … Hannah had intended to pursue a career in global public health, she wanted to help others, and it is heart-breaking for us that she was robbed so tragically of the opportunity to fulfill her dream.”
The Graham family expressed their gratitude also for each of the law enforcement officers, and to all those who took part in the community searches and to those who had generously shared “untold resources” to help support the search for Hannah.
Finally, the Grahams noted that there are other families in Virginia – and beyond – who have not been as fortunate in that their loved ones are still missing, and asked that these families also be held in one’s thoughts and prayers. They concluded by saying that they will not be making any further statements, nor will they comment upon the ongoing criminal investigation.
“We ask the media to respect our privacy and that of our family as we continue to grieve.”
In his 1785 letter to Peter Carr, then only 15 years of age; the son of his closest friend, Dabney Carr, the husband of Jefferson’s sister Martha. who died at age 30) the father of the University — and the University family that Hannah Graham now will always be an integral part of — Jefferson writes:
“If ever you find yourself environed with difficulties and perplexing circumstances, out of which you are at a loss how to extricate yourself, do what is right, and be assured that that will extricate you the best out of the worst situations. Tho’ you cannot see when you fetch one step, what will be the next, yet follow truth, justice, and plain-dealing, and never fear their leading you out of the labyrinth in the easiest manner possible.”
This time, although Hannah Graham had done more than her best in her rich 18 years, to follow truth and justice and to deal plainly in all her interactions; yet very sadly — on this one night — she encountered an overwhelming obstacle in someone who was either unwilling or unable to act respectfully and with good reason. Many of us learn too late that there are occasionally some individuals who are incapable of being governed by reason and therefore are undeserving of rational opposition — and undeserving of our trust, and consequently — for one’s own safety — and if at all possible, those from whom we tthen must not hesitate to walk away.