Aaliyah is dead.
So it goes.
I was watching MTV at midnight with my brother and we picked up the middle of the message scrolling under the video "..WAS KILLED IN A PLANE CRASH IN THE BAHAMAS. STAY TUNED FOR MORE COVERAGE." We sat and waited for the news to scroll again. I am an accepting person. We said nothing.
I changed the channel. Semi trucks were racing up Pikes Peak and in their rush, they had forgotten to stay on the road. They had lots of cameras from all different angles that were waiting for such an incident. They showed the truck rolling off the dirt road and down the hill. I laughed.
This is how I deal with death.
When a girl in my sixth grade class fell off a horse and died, I remember sitting in the back of the class with everyone sobbing and me calmly asking for gruesome details about her injuries. "Did her skull break or her neck snap?", I inquired. Everyone kept on sobbing. The teacher gave me dirty looks. I was just being curious.
And now Aaliyah is dead. Her small plane crashed on takeoff on Abaco Island in the Bahamas, where she had shot her latest video, "Rock the Boat". Seven other people died. So it goes. One is wounded, but living, according to the New York Times (I was just being curious). This could change. Things have a habit of changing. (Update: Everyone is now dead. So it goes.)
Being a fumbling virgin when it comes to life, I was struck by several thoughts when I was learned of these events. What happens now? Does P. Diddy record a heartbreaking tribute? Has MTV started work on a long memorial special, with all of her videos and interviews and all of these other famous people telling how they feel "completely devastated"? Will my major media outlets answer all of my gruesome questions about her death, as long as bringing a sense of completeness to her short life? Will "Behind the Music" turn it into a lovely 30-minute tragedy foreshadowing her demise before every commercial break? "(grave narrator, over picture of mangled plane) And later-it all comes crashing down for Aaliyah. (cue tape of beleaguered loved one) I was so devastated..."
The same thoughts occurred in my mind when I was informed that the massacre at Columbine High School was taking place just a few miles south of my school. The police didn’t know it, but all 15 people were dead by then and there was nothing for anyone left to do except keep shooting in self-defense. So it goes. I was sitting there, in the back of the class, drawing back inside myself, preparing for the onslaught that was shaping in the world around me. Everyone died and then war began.
I am the first to come back alive. I have been to the front and I have come back to report news of the massacre. Oh sure, we will all hear everything we want to know. Whatever I have to say won’t matter soon. I can’t take it with me.
But what can I say about Aaliyah? I tried to write about her accomplishments, like how her newest album was so groundbreaking and all the movies she was set to star in, but it all seems so fake now. Besides, you’ll hear it all anyway, no need to bore you yet. I don't really like her music particularly. It wasn't my type. I never saw any of her movies. I didn’t know her personally.
This isn’t a condemnation of her lifestyle, or even of the way her death will be presented for our consumption by the media. There isn’t really an opinion of anything in this writeup. I wrote this to express, in my fumbling way, the deep pit of dread I felt in my stomach when those words scrolled across the screen.
This morning, incidentally, I decided what I would have written on my headstone when I die: "Gone Around the Bend."
I don’t know much. I’ll probably forget the headstone thing. I’ve already started convincing myself that it’s stupid. Aaliyah has found her peace in the twisted wreckage of her chartered plane a few yards from a runway in the Bahamas, and I’m still looking for mine.
Aaliyah Dana Haughton died on Saturday, August 25, 2001 at 6:50 PM.
I am still living.
Maybe I’m envious.