Forced to be Vulnerable

Where I was: I’ll never forget the moment I found out that one of my best friends had gone missing in a terrorist attack in Nice, France. I was lying in bed, 2 days after undergoing surgery, when my friends and I received a text from Nicks parents confirming that no-one had heard from him. I had a received a snapchat from Nick at Bastille Day in Nice the day before, and I was extremely confused as to why he never opened my response. Nick had been traveling Europe studying and doing community service, along with 84 other students from UC Berkeley, and knowing Nick he was making the most of every second spent abroad.

The Search: Once we discovered that Nick was missing, we all began contacting SOS hotlines, and doing everything we could to help find him even though we were halfway across the world. No-one ever doubted that Nick was okay. He was the type of person you wanted by your side if things ever went south. He always seemed to know what to do, and always had a perfect plan that never failed. I, along with the rest of our friend group, spent the next 3 days terrified but extremely confident that Nick would turn up. His parents flew out to Nice, while we were being bombarded by news channels and reporters that seemed more interested in finding a good story than they did about actually helping the search.

The News: After 3 days of worrying and hoping, my friends and I received the worst news we could’ve possibly imagined. I had just gotten out of the shower when our group chat was silenced by confirmation from Nicks parents that he had not made it. I was in shock. Although I was meant to be in bed for a few more days, I didn’t care. I got dressed and hobbled over to my friends house where about 25 of us gathered in devastation. We rotated between silence, tears, and laughter in memory of Nick. None of us had ever been this open and vulnerable with each other, but we had no choice.

The Aftermath: The rest of our summer was a combination of anger, remembrance, and confusion. We all questioned how this could’ve happened to such a smart person, who was traveling to do community service and help others. It seemed so unfair. Nick had so much going for him. More than most. He was a sponsored kite surfer, model student, speech and debate captain, active member of a great fraternity, fantastic friend, and an only child who was the life of his parents. I’ve never felt so vulnerable in my life. As guys in our early twenties we are often pressured to be strong and show little to no emotion, but when a tragedy like this hits so close to home you really don’t have an option.

A lot of us got tattoos or jewelry engraved in remembrance of Nick. The quote that stood out to me was “Sempre amato e mai dimenticato” which means “always loved and never forgotten” in Italian. Nicks family was Italian, and he liked to tell everyone that he was born in Milan even though he was actually born in San Diego. We all classified this as typical Nick. Even news channels were reporting that he was born in Milan, and we all believe he’s still watching over us laughing at the reporters that he fooled.

Over the next few weeks we would spend a lot of time with Nicks family, reminiscing and helping each other through the difficulties. We organized a paddle out for Nick, and were overwhelmed by the amount of people that came out to show their support. We found peace in knowing that Nick did more in his 20 years than most would in a lifetime, and we learned to cherish the moments we have with our friends and family. This experience showed me that in certain situations vulnerability is a good thing. Maybe even a necessary thing.

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Nick closest friends at the paddle out with Nicks infamous surfboard

 

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