Former Virginia Tech and NFL Defensive Back Keion Carpenter passed away on December 29, 2016 hours after slipping and hitting his head. No, he wasn’t doing anything bad – he was simply playing with his son, Kyle. The 39-year-old Carpenter fell into a coma before passing away 4 days after Christmas, leaving his wife and four children to pick up the pieces of a life taken way too soon.
As someone who followed Virginia Tech football, I remember Carpenter very well. He was one of my favorite Hokies ever. It saddens me to see him go because I am reminded of the things that I treasured him for – the interceptions and the tackles. I think of his play on the field and the victories he was able to contribute to.
I’m also saddened because instead of my memories of VT football or the NFL, I should be thinking about the person. The man who ran a non-profit organization, called the Carpenter House, to strengthen the lives of those that didn’t have the advantages that many others did. Carpenter wanted to give hope, he wanted to bring change and most importantly he wanted to do something to help a community that didn’t have a lot of people stepping up to assist it.
I’m upset because Carpenter was only 39 and should have been given more time to help the community of Baltimore he loved so much. Even though he lived in Atlanta he was always spending time in the place where he grew up. I can’t imagine how much more he could have given back if there were 20 more years of Keion Carpenter. How many more children’s lives could he have touched?
Will everyone outside of his community remember him for being a football player? Five years down the road will anyone outside of the community even remember the good work that he has done for the unfortunate? It haunts me to think about the legacies of the people who do good. Unfortunately we tend to remember the evil rather than the good. We remember the names of people like Hitler and Stalin but we don’t remember the names of the children who were killed in the Sandy Hook shooting – even though we should never ever forget their names.
As someone who went to Virginia Tech I can never forget the name of Seung-Hui Cho and the image of dual pistols pointed at the camera. However, I also see the 32 Hokie stones in front of Burruss, something that I had to visit to truly pay my respect to those taken far too soon. I’m not moved to a truly emotional level by a lot of things, but those 32 stones left me asking questions that I’ll never have answers for.
Those individuals that died that day I never knew but in a way I felt a kinship with them because I had experienced some things that they did. I knew places that they went, I saw things that they did and I probably took the same classes they did. Hell I ate and lived at the same places they did. In a lot of ways it felt personal and the memorial hit home more than a news article or a web video.
Keion Carpenter’s death does the same thing. A member of Hokie nation who tried to be a good human being – giving back to those who were less fortunate. He wasn’t taken by a mass shooting, an out of control individual or a random act of violence. He died from a “freak accident.” Does that make it even tougher to take? I don’t know.
I’ve heard that death is the one thing that is certain in life. You live you die. It’s the circle of life like in The Lion King. It’s certainly not fair. But fair is that place you go in the summer and ride the tilt-a-whirl or whatever it is called. Nothing it seems is fair and Carpenter’s death seems to back that up.
If we, or I in particular, learn anything from Carpenter’s death it’s that we should never stop giving back. Those people who have less than us aren’t always going to have a helping hand. Who knows how many Keion Carpenters are out there because we don’t hear about the good people in the world unless they are in our communities. Sadly, we need to change that. We need to prop up the good people rather than praise the bad. Help those that are unable to get out of a bad situation. Everyone deserves a helping hand. If Keion Carpenter should be remembered for anything it’s not for football but for being a loving, caring human being that gave back to others and wanted to make a better world. Let’s make sure that we continue his dream and give everyone life while we can.