Yvonne Saville (1971-1991) of Romney, WV, was a social work major attending Shepherd College.
At least ten of us in the group knew her as a friend: six knew her as a suitemate. Had Yvonne lived, she would be woven into us still.
She was close to me too. Like the other women of Miller Hall suite 202, Yvonne helped me through severe depression. I was with several of them when Congress passed the "use of force resolution" against Iraq live on National Public Radio.
Many people benefitted from being Yvonne's friends.
On April 23, 1991, Yvonne and a male friend were crossing the Potomac River between Shepherdstown, WV and Sharpsburg, MD, via the railroad trestle over the river!
When an afternoon Amtrak train came, he made it to one of the safety platforms.
She, however, for whatever reason, did not reach a platform, and jumped and fell 95 feet into the Potomac River to avoid the train. She was air-lifted to a nearby hospital, but despite doctors' best efforts, she died very soon afterward.
Shepherd College officials moved quickly to announce Yvonne's death, tactfully, to only her closest friends at first. That included me.
A Thacher Hall residence assistant found me and led me to the Residence Life office. I thought I either had done something wrong or there was a celebration for my twenty-first birthday the very next day.
A Shepherd counselor told me the bad news, and then I found our friends distraught downstairs.
I would learn later that one of us, on a sabbatical in Parkersburg, WV, was already driving east, under very difficult circumstances. I don't know how she did it, really.
That night, another Shepherd counselor opened her campus suite to Yvonne's many friends after the veil of secrecy was eased.
The next day, a visiting rock band played in Yvonne's memory.
Two days later, I accompanied our Residence Life director to Romney for the funeral.
My presence there was a comfort to Yvonne's grateful mother.
I could relate to the six who had lived with her most of all, because my own prospective roommate and close friend, Brooks Randall Wood (1969-1990) of Reston, VA, had accidentally died during surgery three days before we would have shared Room 322 Thacher Hall. (Author's note: Forget what you may have seen in movies made by MTV, neither I nor Yvonne's three suitemates got automatic 4.0 grades, not that they needed one, and especially not the McMurran Scholar, although by the time Yvonne died, I could have used one.)
Yvonne was certainly loved, first and foremost, by her family in Romney, secondly, by a man seemed very hit hard by her death, thirdly, by the women who lived with her from 1990-1991, but also by a number of us who were simply her friends.
Certainly we would have enjoyed her celebrations: graduation, employment, engagement and/or marriage, perhaps even motherhood.
Yvonne was a beautiful, generous, and intelligent woman who had absolutely no reason to die.
We will have some happy thoughts or feelings mixed in with a great deal of pain when we think or feel about her. It is hard enough to get over the death of a person whose death cannot be avoided; it is worse when the person could have been saved.
Please, I beg you. Yvonne's death hit many people like a nuclear bomb.
She did not live to be one of the original members of the Shepherd Friends.
Although Brooks could not avoid dying during necessary surgery, Yvonne died needlessly, and her male friend, who is fortunate to be alive but is emotionally scarred for life, almost was killed too.
The fallout from the "nuclear bomb" has not gone totally away yet. April 23 is still a difficult time of the year, at least for her former residence assistant, and probably for a dozen or two more who haven't said anything to me.
When travelling the Metro in September 1999, I saw a woman who looked much like Yvonne. I was sad, and I fantasized that Yvonne had been re-incarnated, but of course it was just a fantasy.
People never completely get over the tragic, violent, and needless death of a loved one. Sure, it hurts less now than it did in April 1991. But it will always hurt to think about death under those circumstances and to think of what might have been.
Copyright 1998, 1999 Christopher Marsh. Last updated: September 26, 1999.
Back to main page