Grady community must remain strong after tragedy

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The Grady community was heavily impacted by the loss of fellow student, teammate and friend Theo Weimar. Though his death was unspeakably tragic, the school’s response demonstrated the immense strength of our community. We must continue to support one another and educate ourselves on mental illness. 

Most students found out about the loss of Theo through Dr. Betsy Bockman’s announcement in first period on Jan. 10. Several Southerner editors  were in AP Latin, a class filled with people who were very close with Theo and his brother Robert. After the initial shock set in, the first question everyone in the class asked was “what can we do for Robert and his parents?” For the most part, everyone channeled their grief into something positive. Instead of isolating themselves to try and sort out their grief alone, students found comfort in each other.

Right after first period, the Speech and Debate team gathered in debate coach Mario Herrera’s room. APS counselors were present to help structure conversation and provide advice on dealing with grief. Students shared memories of Theo and comforted one another.

Within hours after learning what happened, students offered support to their peers. They covered Grady’s walls with blue paper hearts — blue was Theo’s favorite color — and heartfelt notes. The Southerner staff agreed to color the masthead blue in honor of Theo. Two students helped their church plan a gathering for Grady students on the night of Jan. 10. Dozens of students attended the event, which featured both a religious service and free time to process the tragedy with friends. The amount of support did not go unnoticed. 

The Grady Jesters, who were close to Theo through Speech and Debate, found comfort in one another. The team gathered in the Grady scene shop and spent that Wednesday afternoon sharing memorable stories of Theo while making hearts out of paper and wood. This sense of community brought the school together and, for many, spending time with friends in this environment not only helped them deal with their grief, but honor Theo as well.

Students reminded one-another, both at this gathering and at similar events during the following week, that we are all loved and valued. Students should work to continuously express appreciation for their peers, even after the shock of the tragedy wears off.

On the Friday after Theo passed, the Grady administration hosted a memorial vigil in the theater lobby. Students, Grady faculty, parents and alumni gathered to share memories of Theo. We are thankful that the administration gave the community a space to grieve together. Additionally, faculty support shown through gestures like taping blue hearts to laptops and offering consolation to Theo’s friends was appreciated.

There will be times in the future when some will feel overwhelmed by grief yet again. These moments will often be unpredictable and will come at different times for different people. Memories of tragedies like this will never fully disappear, and neither should the strong support demonstrated by the Grady community. When you see a friend or classmate struggling, they need to know that relapses of sadness are normal, and that even though they may be grieving alone in that moment, there are many people who care about them.

It is crucial to remember Theo as the kind, funny and brilliant kid he was. We need continue to celebrate him and help one-another through this difficult time. 

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