Amanda Mier SpeaksUp

The doorbell rang.

From upstairs, I heard someone open the door. I heard my mother's anguished cry.

I met Cameron Gallagher when I was ten. She was ten and three-quarters. She lived next door. She was taller than I, blonde, a champion swimmer. Loud. Outgoing. I was bookish, introverted, topped with an unfortunate bob. I was awestruck by her. She radiated an energy that I could not understand, and I am a person who needs to understand everything.

Five years after our first meeting, the doorbell rang. My mom sobbed.

I still can't understand.

On March 16, 2014, Cameron ran a half-marathon. She crossed the finish line. Her heart stopped. 

Cameron was not my friend. She was what I wanted to be: beautiful and strong. I had never connected with her; I was envious from afar. I did not know she was battling depression. I did not know she had been quietly making preparations for a 5K race to raise awareness for mental illness, that she wanted to speak up. I didn't know she felt alone. I didn't know any of this until her funeral. 

I was not close with her. I only looked at the surface. I was stricken with grief. I tried to contain the pain I felt for her and her family, to not let it affect me. But it did. On the outside, I was unchanged. Perhaps quieter, if anything, more focused on schoolwork. Inside I was drowning. I had misjudged her. But that could not be the end of the story. If Cameron needed someone to speak up, I would speak up. And for the first time, I had words to describe my emotions: Cameron's words that remained in her journals and doodles.

I don't think I have overcome this challenge of grieving, not really. With death, I don't think you can. But in the past two years I have tried. I work with the SpeakUp organization to continue Cameron's message. I speak up, loudly and clearly, so that the doorbell is not a signal to an end, but the first sound of her legacy.

Katherine Cook