After I graduated from Brookfield Central High School and came to UWM, I noticed something about the majority of the forty or so kids from my graduating class that also came to UWM: they, by enlarge, weren’t friendly. When I would walk past one of them on campus, most of them would either look away to avoid eye contact, or if our eyes had already met, they’d give the obligatory half-smile, or the unenthusiastic “hey” before quickly looking away.
But one of my ex-classmates stood out to me. In fact, it was the ex-quarterback, popular, “hot guy,” the one you’d expect to be cockier than the rest. Not him. Even though we were nothing more than acquaintances in high school, he would always make a point to stop and chat when he’d see me around campus or in the dorms. He went beyond asking the standard “how are you?” question, and asked me questions about my classes, my social life, and anything else. And what meant the most is I could tell he was genuinely interested in hearing my answers.
I always looked forward to running into him. Even though I didn’t know him very well personally, he always brightened my day. He amazed me with how friendly he was, taking time out of his schedule to chat with someone he barely knew. And I was sure I was just one of many Brookfield Central alums he’d stop and chat with.
After sophomore year of college, he transferred to UW-La Crosse, where my brother is a student. My brother reported similar stories of running into him on campus. He would ride a bike to class, and whenever he’d pass my brother, who was always on foot, he would slow down and ride his bike slowly next to him. He would chat with him the entire way to campus – even when he was running late for class.
He was Luke Homan, the UW-La Crosse student whose body was found in the Mississippi River on October 2nd, a couple of days after disappearing after a night out drinking with his friends. When I attended his funeral a few days later, I discovered that I was one of thousands who had noticed his extra friendly personality. His was the largest funeral
The official police report rules Luke’s death an accident. No one is sure exactly what caused him to end up in the river, which is located not far from the bars he was seen at earlier that evening. But with a blood-alcohol level of 0.32, police speculate that Luke accidentally fell in.
But could Luke’s death have been prevented?
If only there were policemen or security personnel keeping a closer eye on people wandering towards the river. Or, if only the city of
Well, hindsight is 20/20, right?
Apparently not for the city of
With eight young men dead, that’s enough for this to be considered a problem, right?
Well, the first seven deaths hadn’t seemed to cause the city of
In fact, many push the blame not on the city, but on the partiers themselves. Many residents believe that the city of
True, if these men weren’t drinking the nights of their deaths, they’d probably still be alive today. But the thing is, college students are going to drink. They always have, and they always will. While it sometimes results in poor decision-making, which can sometimes lead to a fatal accident, as we’ve learned, they are not going to stop partying.
When the city’s alcohol oversight committee took suggestions after Luke’s death, Cyndy Reichgelt, 53, of
Alfred Knorr, also of
So, with the proposed solution of trying to control La-Crosse students’ drinking out of the question, the city needs to take it upon themselves to look for other solutions.
Perhaps on weekend nights – which includes Thursday nights in the minds of college students – the La Crosse Police Department could have more policemen or security officers patrolling
Or, maybe the city’s best bet is to erect some sort of barrier along the river’s edge. While some might argue that a barrier or fence would not be as aesthetically pleasing to the eye as the riverfront’s current appearance is, we’ll see what’s more important to them when someone they know drowns.
It’s pathetic enough that the city of
How many more people have to die before somebody does something about this?
We can only hope that Luke was the one to make them learn.
Reichgelt has three college age children. "I feel blessed they don't go to