Student guest post: Month of turmoil unites UNC students

Students in JOMC 457, Advanced Editing, are writing guests posts for this blog this semester. This is the sixth of those posts. Kathleen Harrington is a born-and-raised North Carolinian and die-hard Tar Heels fan. She hopes her adoration for dogs, countless hours spent in the School of Journalism dungeon and overall Pinterest prowess can somehow translate into the perfect career. There’s a job for that, right?

February has been a tumultuous month for the UNC-Chapel Hill community and its appearance in the news. It started Feb. 7, 2015, with former UNC basketball coach Dean Smith’s passing. Though his deteriorating memory was a clear sign that his health would not last forever, his death was still a shock to both the UNC and sports worlds.

Three days after his death, Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha were shot and killed by a neighbor in Summerwalk Circle – a neighborhood less than 5 miles from campus. Barakat, a UNC School of Dentistry student, had been married to his wife, Yusor, a N.C. State University graduate, for six weeks when they were killed. Razan, Yusor’s sister, was a sophomore at NCSU.

A little over one week after the shootings, UNC experienced a devastating 92-90 loss in overtime against Duke University in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Feb. 18. Unlike most, a loss to Duke is especially hard because of the national devotion to its rivalry with UNC.

Just three days later on Feb. 21, Coach Roy Williams chastised UNC fans for not being more enthusiastic during a resounding 89-60 win against Georgia Tech in the Smith Center. The Tar Heels had opened the game with a tribute to Smith and his famous Four Corners offense.

“We need some more support. My gosh. We’re trying to honor the greatest coach I’ve ever — maybe one of the greatest individuals I’ve ever known. And I can understand if you didn’t recognize it because it sort of went quickly. And it was nice to get a backdoor layup. But don’t sit over there and feel like we have to entertain you. This is a team thing,” Williams said to a reporter after the game. The reaction went viral in the UNC community because of the situations leading up to the game.

In short, we, as Tar Heels, are exhausted. February consisted of endless headlines covering the bad news in Chapel Hill.

Smith’s death filled newspapers across the nation because of his work in both basketball and civil rights, and his legacy will not soon be forgotten. The shooting victims brought thousands of students at both UNC and NCSU together in remembrance of their lives. National news speculated on the intent of the shooting – was it a hate crime or senseless violence? It feels as though everyone has had a say in how our town will be thought of nationally.

Instead of looking forward to seeing the university’s name recognized nationally, I am left with a sense of anguish knowing that it won’t be for a positive reason. Even the Duke loss and Georgia Tech snub hit students at the core because the bliss that is Chapel Hill was questioned.

In the coming days, I hope to see editors take a second glance at our small town. Chapel Hill has had losses this month. It has dealt with hardship. But, more importantly, it has risen above it and come together as a community.

Multiple moments of silence at both home and away games in honor of Smith have been a small comfort. NCSU’s massive support for the fallen students has been bolstered by the Facebook group “Our Three Winners,” which now has almost 184,000 likes. We have a chance to come back at Duke this Saturday for a spring break rematch in the Smith Center. Williams successfully stirred the crowd for the NCSU game that followed Georgia Tech and felt apologetic for not living up to expectations. For each of our struggles, we have responded with strength and a sense of community.

I challenge editors to follow up on the downtrodden Heels. Reporting thus far has been thorough and accurate – as reporting should be. The difference is where we’ve gone since those newspapers  left their boxes. True to our name, the Tar Heels have fought through adversity and refused to let these challenges set us back.

The Heels are here to stay, regardless of February’s strife. How’s that for a headline?