News accounts from six years ago characterized Leslie Sherman as "everybody's cheerleader," but that superlative doesn't begin to capture the person that she was.
She was a daughter - to Holly and Tony, who moved to the DC area to work for the federal government and raise their family.
She was a sister - to Lisa, a year behind Leslie in school.
She was a student - at Virginia Tech, where she was a month away from finishing her sophomore year when she died and at my high school, where she graduated in 2005.
She was a friend - to her family, to her peers, to her teachers; she genuinely made a difference in the lives she touched during her 20 years here on Earth.
She was an athlete - she ran Cross Country, Winter and Spring Track; she ran the Marine Corps Marathon and was ecstatic when she beat Oprah Winfrey's marathon time of 4 hours, 29 minutes and some change. She was training for the New York Marathon; our new high school track is dedicated to her name and to her life.
She was a dancer - she organized the "Senior" Prom, pairing members of our school's National Honor Society with residents of a local senior residence at a yearly fiesta of good will. The snap above (it's a grainy reproduction from our school newspaper; I'm still looking diligently for the orginal) captures Leslie's downright zest for life.
Leslie never took one of my high school classes, but I saw her almost every day for four years. She visited Room 215 for lunch and conversation. I can still see her at the table back in the corner with her friends, chatting, teasing, cajoling, and often finishing up that stray bit of homework due next class.
Many of us are remembering Leslie's birthday today, and will commemorate her death in the Virginia Tech Massacre next week. Almost four months after an eerily similar tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I look at that smile and ask: Why?