This is not how I envisioned my first Letter from the Editor unfolding, but my original vision for this tiny block of print space could not be more inconsequential. I cannot justify penning some letter laying out my goals for Street this semester or explaining why I’ve made certain changes to the magazine. It does not matter.
As most of Penn is now aware, we lost a classmate two weeks ago. Blaze Bernstein died at nineteen, before he could return to campus and finish up his sophomore year at Penn. His death is currently being investigated as a gay hate crime.
On December 24, 2017, Blaze was accepted as a staff member of Street. He was supposed to be a copy editor this spring semester. I read his application and was struck with his humor and excitement for the magazine. He called himself “an old soul.” I immediately wanted to bring him on. I sent him a congratulations email and connected him with the rest of staff. He joined our staff Slack channel, which he still remains a member of today. But I never met him. And he never got the chance to officially join us.
I find myself asking the same difficult question that my predecessor Orly Greenberg asked herself in the days following Nick Moya’s suicide: how does one mourn a person they never knew? As she rightfully concludes, there is no right answer. There is no correct way to process your feelings or understand why a tragedy is affecting you the way it is. But that doesn’t mean your feelings of grief are invalid.
I do not mean to make this horrible event into some tired, introspective navel-gazing about the meaning of loss. I want to take this space to share how amazing of a person Blaze was. He was involved in nearly every corner of the writing community at Penn and was close to members of our staff. I want to offer my sincerest sympathies to Blaze’s friends and family.
I want to reiterate that 34th Street is a place for any and all students, as both a platform for sharing thoughts and feelings and a physical space where you are always welcome to decompress. I am here for anyone who wants to talk.
Yesterday, I had to make the decision to remove his name from the masthead of this issue. Our listserv is still delivering emails to a person who won’t be able to check them. This is the issue that Blaze never got a chance to copy edit, and I want all of you to read it and think of him.
Though thoughts are kind, they’re also cheap. I would love for you all to do more. I encourage everybody reading this letter to donate what they can to the Blaze Bernstein Memorial Fund. Be kind and thoughtful to those around you. And take care of each other.