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Sophomore loses brother in tragic fire

By ANTHONY IRIZARRY | Assistant Features Editor

William Ross Wallace once said, “Every man dies. Not every man really lives.” The words couldn’t ring more truly in these times when industrialized nations work furiously to systematically churn their citizens into cubicle rats and convince us this is all life really has to offer — the nine to five grind.

Every day the hands of time tick closer to what will inevitably be the day of our last breath. For some however, the clock is a misleading measure that does not predict an untimely and unexpected loss.

There are times when we awake one morning expecting everything to be as it should.

There is ground beneath your feet, and a sun shining brightly in the sky — or hidden by the graying Clarksville haze.

However, what we least expect suddenly shakes us to our very core, dismantling our perception of what ought to be and unveiling a harsh reality.

Your brother has passed away.

On Friday, Feb. 11, in an eastern region of White County, tragedy struck in the life of sophomore health and human performance major, Daily Hummelt.

His brother, Gerhard Aaron Hummelt, died in a fire.

Hummelt, a Wisconsin native who now lives in Sparta, was at the Foy Fitness and Recreation Center when he received the news. His mother called him and amid her anguished sobs, she broke the news to him.

“I was stunned, sad and heart-broken,” Hummelt, the pale 20-year-old said, looking away momentarily.

He took the remainder of his classes for the week and returned to Sparta that Friday. The environment at home, Hummelt mentions, was difficult to endure.

“It was rough. My mom was torn up really bad, and my dad was heartbroken and wouldn’t talk to anybody and my grandma was in pain the whole time,” Hummelt said.

The grief had taken its toll on his grandmother too. Shortly after receiving the news, she had to visit the hospital from mild cardiac complications.

Over the weekend, Hummelt’s biggest challenge came with his brother’s funeral.

“I was the first one at the podium for my brother’s funeral and I talked about his life and how my life was with him, and the bond that we had and everything that he had meant to me,” Hummelt said.

As children, Hummelt and his brother Gerhard were inseparable.

It wasn’t until his early teenage years a rift would cause their once unbreakable bond to wane.

Gerhard had become friends with the wrong crowd. This was the catalyst that initially hindered Hummelt from getting close to his brother again.

It wasn’t until his senior year when a glimmer of hope would shine anew. The brothers spent time once more as they had in the past.

Yet, it was only fool’s gold, because Gerhard got into trouble with the law that year and their relationship was literally severed by the bars of a state prison.

“I was very upset he went down that road and it was a bit of shocker, but I think it was a wake-up call for him,” Hummelt said.

After 11 months of incarceration, Gerhard was released. With nearly a year spent on the other side, Hummelt’s perspective on life had changed. He had decided to never commit the same mistake again.

Gerhard loved life, Daily explained, and he wanted to live in the moment and make the best of it.

One of his favorite quotes, stemming from recording artist Eminem, reads, “I’m raising the bar, shooting for the moon, but I’m too busy gazing at the stars. I’m not afraid.”

As he tried to get his life back in order, Hummelt moved into the barn of a friend of the family. He helped them take care of the animals and the land. He slowly worked to get a previously tumultuous life straightened out.

The owners of the barn placed heaters inside of it to keep the baby goats warm during the night. That decision would unfold in an unfortunate and unpredictable way. One night, one of the baby goats knocked the heater over, setting the barn ablaze.

The unfortunate event ended in tragedy for a young man, whose only desire in life was to live it to the fullest.

As he fights within himself to cope with his loss, Daily describes the surreal feeling of losing a loved one.

“I feel like there’s an empty hole in my heart, and it feels like his still right there beside me,” Hummelt said as his voice quivered slightly.

He mentioned some of the things he misses the most.

“We would just go out to Sonic and get a burger, or go to basketball games on weekends. We also played Call of Duty — he liked to knife a lot,” Hummelt said, chuckling.

Family has since become a major priority in Hummelt’s life. The tragedy of his brother’s death has reminded him how much he takes for granted.

“People take family for granted. We all think that we’re going to live until we’re 80 and then something happens,” Hummelt said.

Life is a game of chance, as the odds are both unpredictable and unrelenting. The sands of time slowly trickle to the last grain, and we are at the mercy of uncertainty as no one knows for sure how much grain is in the container.

What we do during that time is whittled down to a simple principle Hummelt learned through loss.

He mentioned what that primordial principle is, “Life is precious and it’s short, and you have to make the most of your life.” TAS

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