This week I was forced to learn to say two very hard words: Eitan was.
I had to learn to say them because my intern and young friend Eitan Stern-Robbins died in his sleep on Valentine’s Day. He was in his dorm room at the University of Miami, where he was a freshman. A lifelong Cantabridgian, Eitan graduated from CRLS in June, 2012. He was only 18.
When Eitan first came to work as an intern at MIT/Terrascope Youth Radio, he arrived with an interest in the environment and sustainability, and an ability to pick up computer and audio editing skills quickly. At 14 he had a deep, authoritative voice that if you weren’t looking straight at him you’d swear he was older.
However, those things were a very small part of what Eitan was, and the person I watched him become. He was creative and funny. He was a friend, a teacher, and a mentor. Some of Eitan’s best work was done as part of a team, and when he and his partner were working together you could almost see sparks fly. His supervisors and coworkers knew from the way he spoke of his religion that he was a young man of deep faith. We knew from the way he spoke of his family that he loved them dearly.
On Monday as I stood next to my colleague Caitlin Minnich, watching as they lowered Eitan’s coffin into the ground, she said, “It’s too small. How can that much personality fit into such a small box.” I tried to find the answer as, following Jewish tradition, mourners shoveled dirt into Eitan’s grave, reluctantly but lovingly saying goodbye.
I've had a picture of Eitan on my bulletin board taken in March, 2009, just before Eitan turned 15. I have it because in it, Eitan’s smile is so him.
Is. Not was.