If you haven’t seen it yet, the lengthy New York Times profile on former Notre Dame student videographer Declan Sullivan is worth the read.
Sullivan died on Oct. 27, 2010, when the 40-foot scissor lift he was filming practice on blew over in 53 mph gust of wind.
But the story isn’t just about that tragic day. It’s about Sullivan’s life. And his family’s response to death.
Reporter Greg Bishop paints a picture of a 20-year-old junior with a penchant for writing, who loved movies and playing the trumpet. How Sullivan had penned a (retrospectively chilling) screenplay called “Clouds,” about a college student chasing a cloud to the top bleachers of a stadium before reaching forward. “The crowd shrieks as he falls,” Sullivan wrote. “A sickening thud is heard as he hits the ground, and the crowd goes silent.”
In the days and weeks following Sullivan’s death, the Internet and national media called for athletic director Jack Swarbrick’s head and for then-new head coach Brian Kelly’s resignation. It seemed as the only ones not angrily clamoring for justice were the Sullivans.
(The Sullivans) did not have the moral outrage that others mustered for them. They acknowledged that Notre Dame had made mistakes, that his death could and should have been prevented. Yet the Sullivans cheered, for Notre Dame and for its football team, even louder than before. Their daughter, Gwyneth or Wyn, as she is called, continued to attend college there. Their other son, Macartan, known as Mac, recently submitted his application.
The family will attend the national championship game in Miami, and it will do so in Sullivan’s memory, for the same reasons the family created a memorial fund and partnered with a local charity: because this is how the Sullivans choose to grieve, how they want him to be remembered.
The Sullivans are attending the national championship game next week. Declan’s father Barry Sullivan has forgiven Notre Dame, though he told the Times he never really blamed the school to begin with.
“I resist that because to forgive means you’ve assigned blame,” (Barry Sullivan) said. “And not to say this could not have been prevented, but I don’t feel anybody knowingly acted recklessly and caused the accident. Or that anybody in the football program said, ‘We are willing to risk lives for the sake of Notre Dame football.’
“I know that. I’m closer to it than anybody. I wish everyone would take my word for it.”