Today was the first day of our surprisingly popular end-of-summer fundraiser. We had about 1,300 people descend on the site for a variety of activities- games, live musical performances, and a beer tent. It's a nice family atmosphere, with a lot of little kids running all over the grounds. It's also a good dry-run for our major fall fundraisers... staff members from all of our various sites converge on my primary workplace and a bunch of our fall contract players and temporary workers return to the site after a long hiatus.
Hanging over the normally joyous proceedings was a patina of melancholy, as word got out about a co-worker's near-fatal car accident. Details are slowly beginning to emerge- our director of Human Resources was able to ascertain which hospital our friend is in, and was able to visit her in the trauma unit, where she lies cocooned in bandages and hooked up to a machine. The manager who informed me of the situation in the first place was also able to visit her. The young woman is an only child, so it's been difficult for a bunch of non-relatives to visit and impossible to learn about her conditions (the privacy laws are rightfully draconian). When I got to work as the event was winding down (I'm the night-man), longtime co-workers would take a brief moment during a lull in the action to mouth a quick question or offer a vague update about our friend.
As I mentioned, the event is normally an occasion for mirth. One of the musicians playing the event is friend that I have known since the days I had a big blond 'fro. Three of our long-time contract entertainers are individuals that I am particularly fond of (the sweet NPR nerd, the moon-faced comedienne, and the flame-haired snarkslinger- for the record). I know all of the temps, and have even been involved in zany misadventures with some of them. Even the guy who comes across as Santa Claus' jollier brother was subdued. Everybody went through their paces with the usual aplomb, but there was just the merest patina of melancholy, which I doubt the visitors were able to pick up on.
When the event ended and everybody could drop the brave facade, the topic of the conversation turned to our friend. We filled in co-workers who hadn't heard the news (nobody knew before yesterday afternoon) and those who knew more details told what they knew. The number of hushed conversations would have led a distant observer to think that we were hatching a conspiracy. Tomorrow, the manager who had initially enlisted my aid will be working the event (she sent me a half-dozen text messages over the course of today), so I will be able to provide a sympathetic ear and a supportive shoulder.
Here's a melancholy number from our stricken friend's favorite band:
We'll get through this weekend's event, and few, if any, of our visitors will be aware that there's a sadness weighing on our minds. We'll get through, we always do.