Yesterday the world lost an amazing actor, a Hollywood star and a talent beyond measure. We watched as reporters spread the news that yes, Philip Seymour Hoffman succumbed to his addiction and died from a drug overdose in his New York City apartment. The world grieved. I didn’t learn about his death on the news though. I learned about it on Facebook.
Almost immediately my newsfeed blew up – photos, articles, tributes, questions all pouring into the feed, overshadowing the Superbowl. My feed was full of the official announcements on CNN, PBS, NPR, CBS like most everyone’s. But it wasn’t those articles dominating my feed.
It was my high school friends sharing the news.
See, Phil and I were classmates at Fairport High School. And it was Facebook that brought many of those classmates back into my life, most recently for our 25th class reunion, but even before that, back in 2007 when Facebook started opening up to high schools. It was then that many of us jumped in and reconnected. Hundreds of classmates, separated by time, distance and the business of our lives. It was Facebook that reconnected us.
And it was on Facebook yesterday where we shared our grief and our memories. Immediately, yearbook photos started to surface. Little league, wrestling, drama club, graduation, prom. His sister, also a classmate, requested we set up a tribute page for him to share memories and condolences. My friend did just that and the page Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman now serves as a place where we can connect and remember. We all share memories of, not only our high school classmate, but of that feeling we had when we saw him on the big screen and said to ourselves “hey – I KNOW that guy!” Seeing someone you went to school with winning an Oscar, acting along side Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, well, for most of us – IS a mission impossible. And he did it. And we all felt like we were somehow a little part of it.
So we grieve and remember together on that Facebook page and in our own feeds. The world lost an award winning actor, and we lost a childhood friend.
Even as I write this, I can hear CNN reporting on his death. But I also hear the Facebook notifications coming in as my friends, my Facebook friends, continue to share their memories. I suspect we will continue to grieve there long after the news media has lost interest. This tragic event will bring us closer together.
It was this, his performance in our high school version of Death of a Salesman – that many of us remember the most. It is seared in my memory. It was like we all knew that day, as Phil portrayed Willy Loman, that something vastly larger than ourselves was there. We were mesmerized.
“I’m gonna show you and everybody else that Willy Loman did not die in vain. He had a good dream. It’s the only dream you can have – to come out number-one man. He fought it out here, and this is where I’m gonna win it for him.” Arthur Miller – Death of a Salesman – Act 2
RIP Phil. Thanks for bringing us all closer to the stars.