Tyler and I were in Boise for the weekend, officially to work a beer event but also to eat at his favorite burrito joint multiple times, see his grandparents/take advantage of their hospitality, and mountain bike on dry trails with the pup.
I stole his Iphone to peruse social media for a second and a notification from a Fitzy member popped up on the team page: this news item. I didn't comprehend it at first and then it hit like a sledgehammer.
They all worked at the company next door to Tram Bar World. I only knew one of the men, and not as well as I would've liked. AJ was our neighbor, and taught our avalanche course in December, and was the best racer of the Fitzy team. He radiated competence and kindness and humor, and wrote riveting trip and race reports on his blog, which I read before I even met him. I don't have any ownership over this grief. I am not his loving family. Once I stuck my head in his house looking for a star hex wrench. He wasn't there but his visiting father, as lanky and trim as AJ, was doing yoga in the foyer. He didn't even mind when my dog stepped all over his mat. That friendly man must be so unfathomably sad. I am not his chipper, involved wife, or one of the dozens of NOLS students that he mentored, or one of the equally mellow but intense skiers with whom he did crazy backcountry tours. Those people have to learn to use the past tense, and deal with the sucker punch of grief every time some little memory surfaces.
I am gutted with empathy for all of them, and sad that I had finally decided he was approachable and was going ask him to show me the guerrilla mountain bike loop in the hills behind our neighborhood. It feels wrong: someone who went after big ski-mountaineering objectives, someone who was healthy and beloved and influential, felled by something as stupid and terrible and unexpected as a plane crash.
No one in the community is unaffected by the tragedy. Driving back into town, I imagined a pall over the valley. I think this is the part where I should talk about how everyone pulls together and takes care of the bereaved and sees the silver lining but I don't want to say those things, because I think this thoroughly sucks.