NCAA Tournament Blog: Roller coaster week

Elizabeth Johnson

This has by far been a week of ups and downs. It’s been a week of little sleep and even fewer meals. It’s been a week of happiness, excitement and nervousness for Murray State basketball fans. And it’s been a week of sadness for the University community as we mourn the loss of student Jacob Derting.

I did something this week I’ve never done in my two years of Editor-in-Chief. I left Murray before the newspaper was 100 percent ready to be published, leaving what I couldn’t finish in the hands of next year’s head boss, Austin Ramsey.

He embraced the responsibility. He called me when he had questions, but most importantly he made fantastic executive decisions in what turned out to be a difficult week.

Austin called me Thursday morning. Sophie and I were ready to head over to the Murray State – Colorado State game. We were hanging out with our former colleague and current Sports Editor for the Murray Ledger & TImes. We were goofing around about how Ricky wanted us to iron his clothes. Sidenote: I’m terrible at ironing.

Nothing could prepare me for what I was about to be told in that phone call. I could tell something was wrong by the tone in Austin’s voice. My first thoughts were, “Oh no, there’s a huge typo on the front page” or “Someone called and is really upset about something we wrote.” I wish that’s what the phone call had entailed. Those situations don’t make me sick to my stomach. I know how to handle those situations.

What I don’t know how to handle is consoling a staff from almost four hours away who may have witnessed the most terrible thing they’ve ever been a part of. Austin was shaken up. He had seen Derting’s body as he cut through the Zen Garden on his way to class. How do you fix that? All I wanted to do was drive back to Murray as fast as I could, call an entire staff meeting, hug everyone and figure out the next steps in informing the public and helping our fellow students.

Sometimes, we can’t always do what we want to. I stayed in Louisville and watched Murray State rise over Colorado State in the second half. Of course I was happy. But I couldn’t help but constantly think about what the University was going through. I couldn’t help but notice before the game the sobriety of Racer Band, of the fans who knew. I couldn’t help but notice how President Randy Dunn spent more of the game in the hall, I assume emailing or on the phone about the situation, than he did in his seat.

This has been one of the most emotional few days I’ve had as EIC and in life. So many emotions are surrounding Murray State. Students are excited to get a much-needed spring break. It’s exhilarating to watch the Racers chase program and OVC history. And it’s an unmatched sadness to know you’ve lost a classmate.

I did not know Mr. Derting. And I can only empathize with those who did by previous experiences in which I’ve lost friends before they should have gone. My thoughts go out to those who knew him, to his family and friends, to those who saw the incident taking place and to those who sacrificed themselves to protect others from seeing the result of the tragedy. This will be a tough time for many. All I ask is that we pull together like we have around Racer basketball to support the student’s family, friends and others who are experiencing a battle similar to Derting’s.

Together we can do many things. Excitement is better shared with others. Sadness heals more quickly with the support of others. Together Murray State will enjoy the ups and fight the downs. We will get through this. We will continue to support the Racers and Mr. Derting’s loved ones. Laughter and cheers may be heard. Tears may be shed. But together, we will make it.