In honor of the 25th anniversary of the Notre Dame Swim Team bus accident (referred to as simply, “the accident”), I am hoping to share 25 Things I Have Learned In 25 Years. 

I am emotional. I would not have told you this about myself when I was younger. And perhaps I wasn’t emotional when I was a teenager (and before). But I have learned – over the past 25 years – that I am an emotional person. At least when it comes to certain things.

Injuries, illness, and tragedy are a few of those “certain things.”

Not in a way that feels inauthentic, or as though I am hanging-on to a tragic event to be involved. We all know people like that: they dive in and thrive on tragedy, wanting to swoop in and very publicly help out. While that’s not my preference, those people play a valuable and necessary role.

No, my emotions come from an understanding of what it’s like to experience tragedy; to be injured; to have your life change in a way that is horrible – yet at times beautiful. My emotions are both physical and mental reactions that I can’t control.

Last night, a Pittsburgh Steeler suffered a spinal injury. I watched it, and re-watched it. And it was awful. It IS awful. While many people prayed for him last night, and checked online to see how he was doing this morning; most Americans’ active interest will fade as the week continues. But not mine. Once you have experienced tragedy – especially a tragedy so similar in nature – it never goes away. And with one hit of a defensive player, it returns, even after 25 years. The emotions of the hospital, a spinal injury, the end of an athletic career, and an uncertain future, all flood back in an instant.

I become emotional. Not for myself, but for the other person, for their family, for everyone whose lives will be altered by that hit. Ryan Shazier’s injury tugged at most people’s emotions; as it will for a long time for those of us who live with a spinal injury.