We probably do not remember exactly what each of us were doing or thinking a few nights ago, during what is usually one of the most relaxing times of the week: between Saturday and Sunday. But it might be worth trying to recall those hours for perspective. Some of us may have reserved that time for conversations, sleeping, partying, or thinking about the approaching summer as we stared through our windows at a snow-covered river. Amid our routines on that very night, Matthew Nehring, the student, beloved friend, and fellow staffer at The Tech, experienced the last hours of his life. The tragedy pains the community at MIT, which has already felt deep losses in the past year. Thinking about our physical proximity to this event, the negligible distances between buildings and rooms on campus, is chilling. In spite of the seeming closeness, the walls separated a single one of us from the rest of the community.
A student who lived on Matthew’s floor wrote the following moving letter in reflection:
“Matthew lived on my hall at East Campus. He had always been soft-spoken and diligent, known for focusing intently on his work. I remember meeting Matthew during our hall rush, and he was a quiet person even then. But at MIT, it’s normal for people to keep to themselves. I remember that residents on the floor would often gravitate to the lounge to work on psets and study for exams when they saw Matthew there, and eventually every chair was occupied. Now many residents on our floor are feeling raw pain and loss.
“I have come to realize that people should always endeavor to speak up and to be forthrightly kind. Complimenting people every now and then is always a good thing to do. Stopping by someone’s room — even if they seem a bit occupied — and saying hi is always an option. Yes, it’s hard to be kind and friendly to everyone, especially if a lot of people know you and you feel like your attention is being divided unevenly or spread too thinly. But you never know the difference a few words could make.”
V. Michael Bove, Jr., Matthew’s freshman advisor and head of the MAS Freshman Program, wrote to the Media Lab:
“Those of us who were fortunate to get to know Matthew since his arrival last fall have at this difficult time been recalling his intelligence, skill, creativity, thoughtfulness, powers of observation, and (though he was often quiet in class) animation and energy when discussion turned to a topic in which he was particularly interested.”
Will Conway, The Tech’s chairman, wrote to the newspaper staff:
“Matt was a valued member of our business department. Over the course of the day, I’ve received repeated emails from his fellow staffers expressing their sorrow at Matt’s passing and praising his work in the department. I feel that these emails speak volumes both to Matt’s dedication to The Tech and to his character. He will be missed in the office.”
There is neither agenda nor preaching in stories like these. It might simply be that this event is bigger than us and that our reflections cannot offer consolation. But perhaps these reflections can honor those we have lost and help make us more aware of our surroundings. We can try to be both sensitive and strong, looking to see, recognize, and hopefully sometimes help. Rest in peace, Matthew. Words cannot describe such loss.