I assume you have heard of the MIT first-year who died on Monday Sept. 29 after going into an alcohol induced coma last Friday. Scott Krueger was my maternal cousin and I spent the past weekend with him and our family at the hospital.
Scott passed out at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house after heavy drinking as part of a hazing and initiation ritual. He was then left by the fraternity in the basement to "sober up." Instead, he threw up, clogging his breathing passages and causing him to lose oxygen to the brain. By the time he was discovered and the paramedics were called, there was little that could be done. He spent three days in a coma, was pronounced brain dead on Monday morning and passed away Monday evening. His death is currently being investigated as a homicide by the Boston police.
I spent last weekend acting as a gatekeeper to prevent the media, MIT, the police and others from disturbing Scott's parents and twin sister. Tuesday, I moved Scott's belongings out of his former fraternity house, while five television cameras followed my every move. Pictures of my carrying his belongings were the lead story on the national CBS and NBC news that night. Scott's parents drove their son's corpse back to their home near Buffalo last week, just one month after they drove their pride and joy to MIT.
I had never stood with someone while their Last Rites were read to them, especially not with a 17-year-old. Watching Scott die touches too close to home. It could have happened here at Harvard or at any campus around the country. And we are all unprepared. Last weekend I was forced to think about hard questions: withdrawing life support, donating organs, unwritten wills, the existence of Divinity...
I seek not to blame or condemn. I do not know exactly what happened at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity last Friday. That is for the police to determine. What I do know is that my cousin is dead and need not have died. I can not let Scott's death be forgotten. His message is too powerful to forget; it is a message we all need to learn from. While I am pleased at the steps MIT and its fraternities have taken to ban alcohol from campus parties, that is not enough. While policies and regulations can change, those effects are not likely to be felt for long. It is only by taking action on an individual level that we can all save lives.
Scott's death was a horrific, unnecessary and senseless tragedy. It is hard to have a death be so public, yet, Scott's death can only be meaningful if others know about it. The public response to his death-which has been great-can be a wake-up call for a system in desperate need of change. I hope it can be a catalyst for all of us-MIT, fraternities and individuals-to rethink our behavior, to remember how fragile life is, and to recommit ourselves to truly living each moment to its fullest. --Bill Burke-White "98