Lessons from a friend
A former Ohio State exchange student, lost in the Paris terrorist attacks, shared advice for a lifetime.
It was Nov. 13, 2015, and I was running around the house preparing for a birthday celebration with friends later in the day. I needed a quick break, so I sat down at my computer to order a few pizzas for the party. I jumped on Facebook for a minute to see who had RSVP’d and was hit with headlines about the attacks on Paris.
I was glad to see that a couple of my friends in Paris had used the Facebook feature that allows you to check in as safe. But I hadn’t really been that worried for them since Paris is a big city with millions of people. The casualties were just numbers. People who were, quite unfortunately, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like most, I was upset about the news, but I eventually went on with my day.
It wasn’t until the next morning that the true weight of this event hit me. That’s when I learned that my friend Quentin Boulenger died at the Bataclan theater that night.
I met Quentin at Ohio State in the spring of 2009. I was a student and he was an exchange student studying at Fisher College of Business. I was quickly captivated by his passion for immersing himself in American culture while also sharing his French heritage with those around him. He loved spending time on the Oval with close friends by day and heading to off-campus parties to meet new people at night.
Some nights, our friends would all cram into his small dorm room on north campus and just hang out and enjoy each other’s company. On these nights, Quentin could be found sitting in front of his computer, carefully selecting songs to fit the mood or excitedly introducing us to his favorites.
Quentin tried to teach me many things. Some things stuck, while others, such as French politics or language pronunciation, did not. Before Quentin moved back at the end of the quarter, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon with him outside of our typical group of friends. We had lunch on the Oval and then headed off to the Ohio State golf course to play a round.
On this particular afternoon, Quentin gave me a piece of advice that I’ve held on to for years. He told me to try to experience and savor every moment, big or small, like it was a “once in a lifetime” thing — to fully acknowledge your life and those in it.
Later that year, I booked a flight to Paris. I don’t think I was even in my hotel for 10 minutes before Quentin called to see if I was ready to see the city. He was so excited about showing my sister and me everything that Paris had to offer that he ran us around the city on foot all day. I have never had so many blisters in my life, but it was worth every ounce of pain.
He insisted on taking us to get macaroons at the renowned Ladurée bakery. Overwhelmed by all of the options, I was trying to be cost-conscious since it was still our first day in Paris. Quentin took over and ordered up a box with his favorites, let my sister and me pick out a few other flavors, then paid for them with a smile and simply said, “Once in a lifetime.”
Quentin was one of many victims. Each and every person lost in acts of terrorism and war has a story, a life and a family.
We should honor the dead by living. Carry on their best qualities that made an impact on us. Smile for those who are sad and love for those who are heartbroken. In the wake of tragedy, we should look for peace by opening our hearts and spreading our love and kindness. We should go out in the world to gain an understanding of cultures, backgrounds and religions different from our own. We should treat ourselves to life’s delicacies. And, most of all, we should savor once-in-a-lifetime moments and friendships.
I’ve made a pledge to do all of these things in honor of my friend Quentin.
Heather Szozda graduated from Ohio State in 2010 with a bachelor’s degree in education and human ecology.