Yale Grad Marina Keegan Dies in Car Crash; Teaches Us How Not to Be Fearful

It’s clear from her Facebook photo that has gone viral that recent Yale graduate Marina Keegan was about to do something big. She stands right in front of us. She watches with self-assurance. She wants to say something.

That was before she died in a tragic car accident that has shaken Yale’s student body. She seemed to represent so much of Yale: liberal, artistic, even anti-Harvard. She was president of the Yale College Democrats and heavily involved in Occupy protests. She wrote a piece on Yalies who go into finance that was mentioned in the New York Times and NPR. She was about to start working as an editorial assistant at the New Yorker. On Saturday afternoon, she was in the passenger seat of her boyfriend’s car when he lost control of the wheel and the car flipped over twice.

The photo was taken at Yale with a solemn gothic library in the background as Marina walks to the center of campus, fitting for the girl who split her time between writing and on-campus activism. She looks so comfortable on that path, but not everyone who walks there feels the Opposite of Loneliness, which she discussed in her last column for the Yale Daily News. I know, because I cried on that same path in September, after entering as a freshman this past year and feeling homesick and lonely.

Before, she is 22, with a life and bright future ahead of her; now, she was 22, leaving all of us to wonder why. Marina is certainly not the only student to pass away this year, but something about her is different. For me, her story is more personal. 

After hearing of her death, I shared her story only with the few people I love most. Maybe that’s because I saw her as an older, more accomplished version of myself; I try to write, protest, and critique like her whenever I’m brave enough.

It’s not that I’m afraid of dying suddenly; none of us actually expect to be the next victims. But, I’m more scared by her calm, her friendly, yet thoughtful expression. For me, it’s about incompletion. As Marina stands in that photo, and as she wrote in her last column, it’s clear that she was so ready for anything.

She is so ready because she feels not just “the opposite of loneliness,” but also the opposite of fearfulness. “We are so young. We are so young. We’re twenty-two years old. We have so much time.” She repeats the same rhythm, but still speaks with insistence and movement. For Marina, we shouldn’t fear being uncertain or being lost. We need only this insistence and movement. We can catch this energy only if we feel “this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together,” and if we remember to hold onto a “sense of possibility.” Only when we remember our communities and our own potential, we can be as ready as she was.

If I had met her back in September on that path, I imagine that’s what she would have told me, so mopey and unready. Marina hoped to find the opposite of loneliness and the opposite of fearfulness. Now we all have to do that — for her and for ourselves.