Miriam Williamson

Summer camp loves. Most kids have them at some point in their life. Mine came when I was in seventh grade. He was 16, I was 13. He lived in North Carolina, I lived in Tennessee. Leaving camp was heartbreaking.

But with the Internet, we kept in touch. We continued to talk via AOL Instant Messenger nearly every day. But as summer ended, so did our young romance.

Throughout high school, I still thought of him occasionally, wondering what he was doing, where he was living and how his life had turned out. We talked less and less because he joined the Marine Corps, but according to him he just “did the sad, safe, pretty boy job of carrying the caskets.” He would tell me the heartbreaking stories of carrying a casket of someone he was in boot camp with, or comforting a young marine’s mother. We would talk maybe four times a year, just catching up, until my junior year.

Then there was the long silence. I didn’t know what he was doing, where he was living or even if he was OK.

In the fall of my senior year though, I logged on to AIM while working on homework. At one point, I went downstairs for a break, and then returned to my computer. I was excited to find an instant message from him, but the content was less exciting. It said something along these lines:

“Hi. I just wanted to let you know I ended up going to Iraq. I was shot three times, and so I came home and was in the ICU for a long time. I actually ended up marrying my girlfriend because we didn’t think I was going to make it.”

I was shocked. I made a post on my blog I shared with friends about my teenage angst and high school troubles, telling them what had happened. He responded on that, assuring me he was OK and that I didn’t need to worry.

Since then, we have only spoken once or twice, and I assume he has deleted his Instant Messenger name. I have looked for him using Facebook and other Internet tools without luck.

But had it not been for the Internet, I never would have even known what had happened to him or even been able to stay in touch for as long as we did.

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