If you drive around my neighborhood in north suburban Chicago around Christmastime, you see a wonderful assortment of lights and decorations. You get the icicles, the beautiful wreaths, the big, bright colored bulbs, but then every few houses or so you see something different. Warm pink lights, wrapped around a bush or two, contrast the typical reds and greens of the seasons and piqued my curiosity back in 2010 when they first began to appear. I asked my Mom why all these houses had pink lights, to which she solemnly responded, “They’re for Lizzy.”
I write this article due to the recent statements by Prince Shembo, a former linebacker for Notre Dame, claiming himself innocent of the alleged sexual battery of a Saint Mary’s student named Lizzy Seeberg in fall of 2010. Ten days after the events, she committed suicide. Lizzy lived and grew up in my hometown of Northbrook, Ill., which is why I heard the story in the first place. I never knew Lizzy, but I did know some of her relatives through my school and my community.
The death of this young woman and following inquiry into the events left my community devastated and heartbroken. I’m sure some were wondering how this could’ve happened, why Notre Dame was being portrayed in such a bad light, what texts like, “Messing with Notre Dame football is a bad idea” mean in the context of a girl’s life.
And here’s the truth: I don’t know. I don’t know the details. I can’t and won’t pass judgment on Shembo, on how Notre Dame should have handled the issue, what the culture of football at this University means, who said what, what the big story is. All I really know is that Lizzy is gone, and this tragic fact is the only thing that matters in the end.
But the reason why I’m really concerned is this: I was talking with a few friends the other day, and someone in conversation said something along the lines of, “Oh, did you hear that they found out more about the football player involved in the sexual assault a few years ago?” I responded with an “Oh, really?,” didn’t give it a second thought, and moved on with my day. Only later when I found out that this was Lizzy Seeberg in question did I care to give it a second glance.
Am I that quick to forget? I clearly remember the details as they occurred back in 2010, I remember how distraught the community was and I remember thinking about how close to home the whole situation felt, despite my obvious distance from the events. I heard what my friend said about a football player and threw it away like it was nothing. I strongly feel this is not something our community as a whole can simply forget, but I didn’t care until it directly related to me. But what about people who this didn’t relate to? Is our community as a whole so numb to alleged forms of violence such as this?
I’m referring not just to athletes and the football program, but the campus as a whole after several sexual assault incidents this year. I would hope that for the amount we talk about the Notre Dame family we actually support this claim when people’s lives and dignity are at stake; this suicide is not something we should forget. The “One is Too Many” movement is an excellent start, and is something that I fully put my weight behind. But it doesn’t change the fact that any kind of disregard for these events is a crime against the victim and her family, and is something of which I myself am guilty.
No, I never knew Lizzy Seeberg or Prince Shembo and maybe this article is just a useless reminder of a terrible tragedy from which Notre Dame and the Seeberg family would like to move on. But right after reading Shembo’s statement, I remembered the pink lights that I saw this year and that I will see every time I return home during Christmas. I have a reminder of Lizzy. What will it take for Notre Dame to remember as well?