Three years ago, on Halloween night in 1997, a car fatally hit Michele Micheletti ’00 as she walked across Memorial Drive with her four friends from New House to get to her parked car.
I was with her that night. In fact, I was walking ahead of her only by five feet when a car struck her from behind. I heard a loud thump and when I turned around, I saw something flying in the air. I didn’t know what it was. It was not until thirty seconds or so later that one of us in the group yelled out that it was Michele and that a car had hit her.
I was stunned. It couldn’t have been. “No!” I screamed, “No!”
While one of us ran into the dorms to call the police, and another watched over Michele’s body, two of us retreated to the river side of Memorial Drive to try to alert oncoming cars that there was a pedestrian lying on the road.
I felt so helpless as I waved my arms, trying desperately to get the drivers to slow down. All I could see were headlights and cars rushing at me. “Slow down!” I cried, but no one heard me. The paramedics arrived a couple of minutes later and took Michele to Massachusetts General Hospital, where she was pronounced dead.
That night, I remember having problems with sleeping. All I could think of was that the car had missed me and hit her instead. I had never felt so vulnerable in my life. I felt survivor’s guilt. And I cried. I cried for Michele and I cried for all of us. I cried because we would never see her again.
Michele was my first friend at MIT. I met her when she was a counselor at the Freshman Leadership Program. She took me into her arms and always smiled and gave me the best hugs whenever she saw me. It was because of her friendship and warmth that convinced me to move into New House, her favorite dormitory.
In fact, Michele was friendly to everyone she met. She smiled and made friends with people regardless of their race, sex, or sexual orientation.
Michele’s gift was in sharing her love and love for life with others. One of her favorite phrases was “Mi Amore,” which she used as a signature attached to all the e-mail messages she sent out. “My love” was what she offered freely to others.
After the incident, I went into a typical grieving process. For a while, I was in denial. I even used the excuse of “too much work to do” to avoid flying at the expense of the MIT administration to attend Michele’s funeral services in San Francisco. I didn’t want to believe that she was gone. To me, she was still very much alive inside of me. Every time I passed by her empty room, I would imagine seeing her sitting by the computer, waving hello at me. She would flash her radiant and warm smile, and all my troubles that day were forgotten.
It has now been three years since Michele’s death. I don’t think the grieving process is over for the four of us who were present that night.
When someone as beloved as Michele dies, how can you ever let go of her, especially when you were the last to see her?
Since Michele’s death, a handful of students have also passed away unexpectedly, including Richard Guy ’99, Elizabeth Shin ’02, Michael Manley ’02, and Philip Gale ’98. While I don’t know them personally, I can relate to what their friends must still be going through.
Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to speak with Michele again. I would like to ask if she thinks I’m remembering her enough. I hope she would say yes, that she’s happy to see me happy, to see that I am thinking of her, and knows how much I miss her. I’d like to think she would tell me to love life and to love those around me, for that was what she had striven to do in her nineteen years.
My two roommates and I moved out of New House after that semester. Memories of Michelle had taken their toll, and I desired a different place to think and live. That Halloween night we had all learned a valuable lesson about mortality and life. Three freshmen and a sophomore had grown a little bit older.