You never think it can happen to you.

But when it does, it hurts.

You hear about terrorist attacks in Europe and the Middle East. You read the headlines about racial conflicts at different universities on the other side of the country. You don’t think twice about it because it’s not close to you. But when a classmate, let alone someone you looked up to for years, takes his own life, you’re left with a lot of questions. Those questions are essential if we are to grow from recent tragic events.

I lost a brother last Wednesday, and that’s one of the worst things a man can ever experience. Throughout middle and high school, Demitri Allison was one of my role models.

For as long as I knew Demitri, he and I only had a few heart-to-heart conversations. The majority of the time, we trash-talked each other. But practicing alongside him every day in 10 grade and seeing his hard work pay off Friday nights was inspiring. But beyond that, Demitri’s role in my life heavily influenced the most important decision of my early adulthood.

Until Elon University offered him an athletic scholarship, I had never heard of the small private university. When he officially committed, the first thing I said to myself was, “Why would he go there? There’s probably nothing to do.”

Fast-forward to my senior year, when my college counselor strongly urged me to add Elon to my application list. I knew Demitri’s opinion would be the deal breaker in my final verdict. Last winter break we had a short but impactful conversation. When I asked him if I should go to Elon, he said 14 words that have altered the course of my life:

“Yeah, man. You’ll have fun, and I’ll be there to look out for you.”

He wasn’t lying. Throughout the summer, he and I texted back and forth about packing advice, the social scene and the school as a whole. When I got here, he made sure I was comfortable, introduced me to his friends and took me out with him on weekends. He was like the older sibling I never had, and his guidance gave me confidence knowing I had someone to fall back on. That’s not a luxury most college freshmen have.

If he had not chatted with me on that December afternoon, I would have made the wrong choice. I might be at another college where the sheer number of students would make me feel insignificant. Instead, in the last three months, I’ve begun to craft lifelong relationships with individuals who genuinely care about me.

When Demitri passed, a tidal wave of support rushed my way. I wouldn’t have been able to get through this tragedy without the support, which solidified Demitri’s claim that Elon is where I should spend my next four years.

Although I have a great support system here, as well as with a myriad other loved ones in Charlotte, there is still a gaping hole in my heart, along with many others. The number of lives he touched are countless, shown by the tributes dozens of high-school athletes wore Friday.

I can’t wrap my mind around why he would do this. But at the moment, he did what he thought was best, and it’s not my place to speculate his motives … nor would I try. This summer, when I came to terms with my father’s death 10 years ago, I personally realized that there is truly a meaning to every sorrow in this world. I hope and pray that Dr. Mark, Mrs. Lisa, Joe and Sam discover why this happened. The supernatural satisfaction of finally solving such a mystery is impossible to put into words … it can only be experienced.

When I watched Demitri’s younger brothers play on Friday, it made me realize that God was up to something.

When I first heard of Dee's death, I was almost certain Sam and Joe were not going to play in Davidson Day School’s football state championship game. They proved me wrong. Witnessing them play with such inspired effort and strength left me speechless. A team Davidson Day narrowly beat a few weeks ago couldn’t stop them. It was a storybook ending to a tragic week, a lesson on converting adversity into strength.

Both Elon University and Northern Mecklenburg County are hurting right now. But as we look to find immediate answers, I feel like we should take a step back and ponder the questions.

God’s timing is perfect, and He will eventually reveal why this disaster occurred. The darkest moments and lowest valleys are essential in developing our character. Without them, our faith can’t get stronger. In the midst of our grieving, the Bible promises that God will give us a peace that surpasses all understanding.

God is sovereign over everything, and we need to rest in the fact that He is in control. The Phoenix is known to rise from its ashes, and Demitri would want us to live up to the legend of his school’s mascot. Good will come out of this. I refuse to believe that it won’t. Fifty hours after this happened, Sam and Joe took a major step in proving they will not let this defeat them. Demitri would want his legacy to inspire others, and its only right that we get through this together.

“And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." - Romans 8:28