Twenty years ago incumbent George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton were running for office. Twenty years ago BYU had a winning football team...they even beat the Ute's that year. Twenty years ago Michael Keaton was Batman and Michelle Pfeiffer was Catwoman. Twenty years ago I taught fifth grade in a small Provo elementary school. I was fresh out of college. Twenty years ago Nicholas Ivie was in my class.
I haven't thought much about specifics of twenty years ago or even my year spent teaching until news events this week prompted me to scour my memory. Monday night I was watching the news when I heard that Nicholas Ivie, a US border patrol agent, had been killed along the U.S. Mexico border.
Nicholas Ivie. Nicolas Ivie. The name sounded so familiar, but I couldn't place it....until they showed his picture. NICK!! I immediately knew his eyes from his picture. He was now a 30 year old handsome man, but in my mind he was still a shy, unassuming 10 year old fifth grader.
I wept for Nick and his wife and little family that night, and the memories and snippets of that year flooded in. I remember Nick struggling a little with math. He never wanted to ask for help and was so determined to figure things out himself. He always asked for a little extra time to finish. I remember a boy that liked to play football with his friends at recess. I remember hunting stories he used to tell. I don't know if he was the one doing the hunting, or if he just wanted to be a hunter. I remember he liked to camp. Many of his short stories he wrote were about camping. I remember him quietly standing at my desk waiting for me to check out a book for him from the classroom library. Most of all I remember his shy smile and his happy eyes.
Obviously the men that murdered him the other night didn't know anything about him. Even after a year I can't claim to know much about him either. That was the only year I taught and I have memories of each and every one of those kids. While I didn't love teaching, I loved every single one of those students in my fifth grade class. I often wondered what they would be like as adults. I even went to their high school graduation and sat in the back of the Marriott Center with my new baby and smiled as each one of "my kids'" names were called.
And now twenty years later I can only hope that the teacher's of my children love my kids as much as I loved those fifth grade students. I count it as a blessing that I had the opportunity to teach, get to know, and to love those students. I don't know what the circumstances were surrounding Nick's death at the border. While news reports haven't disclosed anything I can only suspect someone was trying to illegally smuggle drugs across the border. Nick was protecting my kids. And while I don't know anything about what kind of people my students grew up to be or what they are doing now, I do know this. Nick grew up to be a hero!
********A few days after this was written it was published that Nick actually died from friendly fire, and not a blatant murder. It is still heroic that Nick was so willing to serve his country.