Stronger after tragedy

Coach Ed Wilson, right, and former player Charles "Tank" Duckett. (Photo courtesy of Scott MacMullan)

Coach Ed Wilson, right, and former player Charles “Tank” Duckett. (Photo courtesy of Scott MacMullan)

Mentoring, teaching, writing, moving – these are just some of the things I thought about writing about this week. Then two big tragedies struck and all I wanted to do was try to find some meaning in them.

My former youth basketball coach, Ed Wilson, died earlier this month at age 92. He was a longtime coach in Severna Park for 8-to-10 year olds. He coached Steve Wojciechowski of Duke basketball fame and Mark Teixiera of New York Yankees fame. But Coach Wilson also was known for being a huge influence on many less fortunate players. Mr. Wilson was known for taking disadvantaged children under his wings and driving them to practices and games. In the 1970s, many of his teams were comprised of mostly African-American boys. He encouraged his players to use basketball to get a college education.

Going to his wake brought back so many memories, as did seeing some of my ex-teammates. We played more than 100 games a year for Coach Wilson’s team. When you play that much basketball when you are young, it’s your whole life and the people around you become like brothers. These brothers all were doing great and had gone to great colleges and had nice jobs now.

For me, playing for him was an amazing experience that I didn’t fully appreciate until much later. In a way, Coach Wilson’s death brought our team together yet again. (Even in death he was coaching!) Coach Wilson’s lifelong focus on service is something we should all try to emulate to some degree.

Annapolis fire

Firefighters battle flames engulfing an Annapolis-area home Monday. (Glenn A. Miller Photography)

Monday, another tragedy struck. Four children and two adults are still missing after a massive house fire in Annapolis. The four children were all students at Severn School, where I am the alumni president. We are still sorting everything out, but coming together as a community now is as important as ever.

After doing some Internet research, I found a few things that need special attention during a time of tragedy:

  1. Recognizing people are different and people will react differently to a tragedy.
  2. Providing others with support by listening to them and giving them the space they need.
  3. Helping others out with the seemingly small, everyday tasks.
  4. Organizing informal activities for the group.
  5. Making sure it’s easy for people to connect with others or professionals
  6. Managing feelings of anger through exercise and talking to others.
  7. Organizing campus forums to talk about the tragedy.
  8. Organizing fundraising in support of remembering the tragedy.

I guess that is the positive from death; it makes you closer to the living.