|Anna-Leigh Aline - 6 Word Story|
Long before dawn on Saturday morning, I left for San Marcos to meet my friends Rafranz Davis (@RafranzDavis) and Carrie Ross (@MsRossEnglish) for the drive down. Without event, we arrived, parked, checked in at registration, and immersed ourselves in #HackEd.
First on the agenda was meeting members of my PLN face-to-face (f2f). I was SO EXCITED! Pretty sure I bowled people over getting to Jen Wagner (@jenwagner). I took pictures compiling them for a digital scrapbook I planned to share at the end of the week. Two sessions wrapped and we headed to lunch. Beth Still (@BethStill) tweeted out a picture from the Newbie Lounge and Rafranz and I picked up our things to go up and meet her.
Then my phone rang.
My life changed.
In an instant, my world came crashing down.
My twenty-five year old sister was on the phone sobbing hysterically and telling me that my two year old niece had just drowned. A few weeks before I had purchased them an above ground pool to help ward off the summer heat. My mind went blank. My knees buckled. In what is now all I blur, I heard Rafranz ask what was wrong and she picked up my phone. Someone on the other line told her what had happened. Rafranz hollered for someone to find Paul Wood (@PaulRWood). Strangely a couple of weeks before, I had told her that if anything ever happened to me, to find Paul. And she did.
After he quickly consoled me and ran to get his car, Rafranz and Dean Mantz (@dmantz7) took me up to the road to wait. To breathe. Even while writing this, I can feel Dean's hand square in the middle of my back. Without words, he was telling me that my friends were there to support me. In short order, Paul took me to San Marcos and we drove like crazy to my sister almost 200 miles away.
For the next ten days, my life would be a blur. I'm the big sister. I stood strong holding my sister, supporting her through this time. My time passed making funeral arrangements, ordering a tiny pink casket, securing a burial plot, getting my sister to the OB/GYN (she's six months pregnant) and more. Tasks I never even imagined. Events that should not surround a beautiful two year old child. The exhaustion. The heartache. The loss. That was the focus of my being. No Twitter. No dinners and after parties. No #ISTE13.
But it was during this darkness, during this absence from my PLN, that I discovered how strong and bright they are. Countless members sent condolences and words of support. I carried my sister's burden with their strength. Some I have never even met f2f. Others I had met f2f only that morning. All gave me strength.
A PLN is so very much more than numbers. It's connections. It's people. It's friends.