Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared for The Observer in its 2017 Commencement edition on May 19, 2017.
11:45 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015.
That was the moment that forever changed how I viewed the work done in the basement of South Dining Hall by the wonderful people at The Observer.
It started with a simple statement:
“People are saying Fr. Ted died on Twitter.”
I don’t remember who exactly said it, but it was someone at a News or Viewpoint computer in the front of the office who first alerted us to the news about Fr. Theodore Hesburgh. I do, however, distinctly remember Erin McAuliffe following with, “It’s all over Yik Yak, too.”
The minutes and hours that followed were some of my proudest at The Observer.
By 11:47 p.m., we had the email that Fr. Paul Doyle, a close friend of Hesburgh’s, sent to all the Dillon Hall residents informing them Hesburgh had died at 97.
At 11:52 p.m., outgoing Editor-in-Chief Ann Marie Jakubowski confirmed the news with a University spokesperson.
The tweet breaking the news to the rest of the world went out at 12:03 a.m., Feb. 27 — just 18 minutes after we first heard the rumors.
Needless to say, especially for those familiar with Hesburgh’s place in Notre Dame lore, the regular Friday edition we were working on at the time was scrapped completely. All non-essential staff members were sent home. Everyone else flew into action.
I was the water boy.
My most productive role that evening was perfecting my inner Bobby Boucher, ferrying cups of water all across the office.
(I did also tear through old issues of The Observer looking for stories and photos to use as well as find an op-ed by Hesburgh on amateurism and college athletics for one of the earliest issues of Sports Illustrated. In a true testament to the legacy of Fr. Ted, his thoughts are still relevant today.)
In reality though, I was really just an unnecessary body bouncing around a buzzing office tackling the biggest piece of breaking news in our college careers.
Like hell I was going to be anywhere else.
I finally left the office at 6:30 a.m. When I returned at noon for an emergency meeting, there were many who hadn’t left at all. Luckily, it was Friday, so we had time to prepare another special edition for that Monday.
Over the next week, we covered Hesburgh events — like his memorial service, wake and funeral — around the clock. I’ve never seen an office so exhausted yet also positively glowing with pride and joy in the work we were doing, despite the somber curtain that enveloped campus.
That is what I’m going to miss most about working for The Observer. The people here devote their lives and GPA’s to a daily, independent campus newspaper, all in an insatiable pursuit of their individual and collective passions.
Over the last four years, from my first experiences covering interhall football to my final days as Assistant Managing Editor and a senior sports writer, the people of The Observer have shown me just how much pain you have to endure while pursuing your passions, and yet also how much pride and gratification the payoff yields.
There are so many other lessons The Observer has taught me, but one of the most important is that there’s always a word limit in life, so I’ll spare you the novel.
Now I’m being forced to accept the weird and utterly unbelievable reality that my fellow seniors and I must leave The Observer to all of the wonderful people coming behind us.
They are now the ones charged with capturing the spirit of campus. It is a monumental responsibility, but I know The Observer is in the hands of extraordinarily capable reporters, editors, photographers, ads personnel and graphic designers who have already proven they can meet any challenge.
We often joke about pulling off a minor miracle every day at The Observer, but it’s not hyperbolic.
Margaret Hynds once told me that every issue of The Observer is a product of between 30 and 40 individuals. So, including this behemoth, during my four years on campus, The Observer produced 523 editions — many including other special editions, like football and student government insiders — without missing a single deadline.
In hindsight, it does feel more than a bit miraculous.
To everyone at The Observer, past and present: Thank you, I love you all and keep uncovering the truth and reporting it accurately.