If Leslie had been there, we all would have been smiling. Then laughing. Then, all curled up, hugging our sides, rolling in the aisles.
But she couldn't be there. So we cried, instead.
Our Humble High School dedicated its track to Leslie Geraldine Sherman yesterday afternoon, before the assembled student body, the news media & quite a few local dignitaries, including Leslie's parents and her sister.
Leslie, Our Humble High School Class of 2005 & Virginia Tech Class of 2009, never made it to college graduation. She died three years ago in her French classroom, in Room 211 of Norris Hall on the Tech campus.
A lunatic took the lives of 32 Hokies that day, including Leslie. Then he shot himself to death. Six of the victims, plus the gunman, were from the Northern Virginia 'Burbs, an area notable only because of its proximity to DC & because we live there. One victim attended school with my chicas. Then there was Leslie.
An avid runner, who competed with our track team during all 4 years of high school, Leslie had an infectious smile. She trained for marathons & then ran in them; never first, always in the middle of the pack, so happy to be there. She completed DC's Marine Corps Marathon 6 months before she died. Friends from Tech painted gaudy signs that read, "Run, Leslie, Run!"
After that Herculean effort, Leslie was a master of understatement: "I beat Oprah's time!" It was only appropriate that the following April Leslie's parents, Holly & Tony, appeared on Oprah's show; one condemned NBC's screening of the killer's video & other materials. The other praised the network.
Just like her parents, Leslie was full of contradictions. But that's what made her worth knowing...and remembering.
She loved to dance. So she volunteered at a retirement home, where the old guys knew how to cut a rug.
She loved history. We learned yesterday that she showed up at her US History teacher's wedding rehearsal in an historic Old Town Alexandria church. She said experiencing the past was so much more real than reading about battles & treaties & scientific breakthroughs in a musty old book.
But she thought nothing of reading a 600-page tome on Napoleon. "I needed to do that," she once said.
We needed to honor Leslie yesterday. As 2,500+ Spartans & others crammed into the home side of our football stadium, we heard stories, we sang tributes, we pledged to honor our fallen friend. One of my yearbook editors, representing the track team that Leslie so loved, had a difficult time getting thru her speech. She's going to VA Tech in August, where she'll be a member of their Division 1 squad. I'm sure she'll think of Leslie every time she laces up her running shoes.
I think about Leslie every day. So do dozens of others, I'm sure. And I can't think of a more fitting memorial than that.