Not a single person who attended or taught at Lakeville North High School on Dec. 4, 2013 will likely forget that day for the rest of their life.
Most will also remember where they were when they heard the news that junior Alyssa Ettl had died in a car crash on her way to school that morning. A typical school day quickly turned into one that couldn’t go on as usual because of how impactful Alyssa’s death was.
Students cried. Staff members cried. And Lakeville residents felt similar sorrow.
Although the news stunned me, it didn’t have quite the same effect on me as it did others. I had met Alyssa once, but I never truly knew her. The life Alyssa lived, however, changed my life, and for that reason, December 4th will always be a day filled with emotions for me.
As I walked the halls of Lakeville North that day and saw the wide variety of emotions experienced, I realized truly the impact Alyssa had on the lives of others.
The day came to a complete stop for the entire building and for Lakeville not only because of the death of a student, but because it was Alyssa.
She made the day of every person she met, and even though she was only a junior in high school, she changed the lives of others.
Little did I know, she was about to change mine.
Rather than express my emotions externally similar to many others, I looked inward.
I asked myself the question, if I died today, would I be happy and content with the impact I had made on others?
If I died today, what regrets would I have?
If I died today, how would I be remembered?
I asked myself these questions, and other similar questions for the next couple of days. I struggled to move on from her death because I couldn’t get past asking myself if I was happy with the impact I was making on others.
After days of pondering this question and struggling to function in day-to-day activities, God provided me with my answer: the written word.
During these days in which I questioned the impact I had on others, I came across the Minnesota State High School League student media program.
I know this wasn’t a chance encounter; it was all part of God’s plan.
I wondered if Lakeville North took part in this program, so I approached former athletic director Russ Reetz. It didn’t exist, so he gave me permission to start it.
The rest, as they say, is history.
What began as a small amount of interest in journalism and writing quickly turned into a love for the craft, so much so that I plan to pursue a career in it.
Through the written word, I realized I could impact people by telling the stories of others. I get a front row seat to the successes and failures of athletes, many of whom I go to school with, and I wouldn’t trade this high school experience for any other. December 4th will forever be a turning point in my life, and it will always elicit a wide variety of emotions in me every year that it passes. It led me to the career I love, and exactly one year later on December 4th, I was hired for my first paid job in journalism.
I wish tragedy didn’t have to be part of this story, but I am forever grateful to Alyssa Ettl for showing me the impact one person can have on others.