where the writers are
The Distance

A co-worker died. He's the fourth co-worker to die at this company. One died in the office, two were killed in accidents, and the third was killed by another. 

Each affected me although each had degrees of separation. It's these degrees and the distances they generate that make me wonder, what is the model behavior for this situation? 

The man who died last night was killed in a plane crash. It was an experimental aircraft that he'd built himself. By western measures of success, he was a success, forty-five years old, college graduate, capable and intelligent, a director with managers and senior managers reporting to him, just five steps down from the CEO in a company of over three hundred thousand people with billions of dollars in annual revenue. I can't recall ever meeting with him, although we spoke on the phone a few times, but a number of people I work with reported up the chain to him. His death affects them, so it affects me, but he's not close to me on my arc of existence.

This is true of two of the other deaths. One, a distant co-worker, was a name I knew. I had little to do with her but she worked closely with some of my co-workers. A traffic accident claimed her. The third was a name and voice, someone I met a few times, but not a person I knew. He died at his desk at work on a Friday evening swing shift. They found him Monday. He reported to a peer manager and we reported to the same director so this had a greater impact on everyone that I worked with, especially that he died while in an office and was left undiscovered. 

Fourth was Andy. Andy worked for me for a while. As they began shutting my division down, I found Andy a position in QA. Bright, hard-working and capable, he moved into sales as a security engineer, traveling with the sales team, helping with the technical details associated with computer and network security. 

Andy's death bothers me most because the book was never closed. He was killed one night on the road, stabbed with his own knife after he fought with another man. They were at the other man's house, along with a young woman. All of it was supposed to be about a boat. Andy had met the girl at a bar - I call her a girl, but at twenty, she is a woman - and they'd gone to the man's house to talk to him about a boat he was selling. They'd been drinking and somewhere after midnight, Andy fought with the man, drew his knife, was stabbed with it, and left. He bled out down the road in the warm and dark Tennessee night, found by the police when they responded to the man's 911 call. 

What really happened? Why was he there? I don't know. That's why it bothers me. All of these people left friends and family. The circumstances of their deaths are not unusual stories. Many of the same tales, with different details, can be read on the Internet around the world. The distance in all of them is in our thoughts, and our ability to cover the distance.

Sometimes the distance is so short, we can never cover it.