Julie and Michael met when they were in kindergarten......oh how they became the best of friends!  Over time, they went to different schools and saw each other less frequently, but,  in the end, their special connection was sealed :-)  Michael wrote us the  most beautiful letter when Julie died, capturing not only their friendship and Julie's essence, but also his amazing gift for writing. We have shared most of its contents below:

 

 

 

 

I cannot recall exactly how Julie and I connected so many years ago in
kindergarten, but I can only assume that it was her glowing kindness and gentle
nature that drew me to her.  The Julie that I knew was always genuinely
sweet, soft-spoken, and incredibly sincere, I am so grateful that out of a
class packed with loud, rowdy five-year-olds, I was able to find comfort in
Julie's quiet warmth.

 

Although  Julie and I shared the bond of growing up together at Stratfield School, I
remember and cherish our connection as teenagers just as much.  This was
the time when I got to see a surprising new side of the quiet, shy girl from
elementary school.  Julie never lost her sweetness, but now I was able to
experience her impressive honesty and deep strength, most of which emerged
through her hilarious, sarcastic wit.  This is the side that helped me
endure some boring classes, pass some of my most memorable New Years, and most
recently, enjoy so much over a cup of Starbucks coffee.  Those various
get-togethers confirmed for me that Julie would be a life-long friend.

 

I  feel so fortunate to be one of the lucky ones who got to know Julie for so
long.  It was a true gift to have experienced a moment of her quirky, delightful
sense of humor, her true awareness of others, and her huge heart.  It is
such a shame that more people - especially classrooms of first graders - will
not get to learn and grow under her guidance.  I know that I learned such
a great deal from her, whether or not she was aware.

 

In  those periods of time when we saw less of each other, she was still often on my
mind and still teaching me. During the  awful years of adolescence, there was many a time when I went off in the “wrong  direction,” mocking a fellow classmate, or getting caught up in other bits of  middle school nonsense. It was during  these years that I considered Julie somewhat of a moral compass – an individual  to emulate in terms of genuine goodness. Of course she was human too, and probably had a few moments when she got  caught up in adolescence as well. But all  that I saw in her was her spirit, her desire to please, and her unwavering compassion for others.

 

I  have always been a firm believer in events “happening for a reason,” mostly
because you sort of have to in order to survive. I follow that mantra more as a source of hope  than one of logical explanation. I must  admit that it has been quite a struggle to understand this tragedy or find any “reason”  for its occurrence. Nothing about the
loss of Julie seems fair, just, or makes any sense. All that I can say with certainty is that we  have all been cheated in the most unfair of ways by her loss. With that said, she already has and will continue  to live on in our shared memories and stories of who she is and was. In turn, we will all be able to keep alive everything  that Julie represented. When I think of  her now, I think of the stories of our time together and then remember her  quality of character and her wonderful presence. Julie was a truly special individual.

 

Michael  Ackerman