This will not be written in the usual news style. Alissa Thompson was a very special girl to this campus, and to this newspaper staff. As we have such a small student body, it seems more appropriate to write this in a familiar way, as we all try to deal with this tragedy.
Tragedy struck the Lawrence campus on the Sunday of spring break. Three Habitat for Humanity vans were headed to South Carolina, full of students eager to spend their week off from school helping to build homes for the poor.
One of the vans flipped after hitting a guardrail on the Woodland Avenue exit off of Interstate 275 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Alissa Thompson, a 19-year-old sophomore from Clyman, Wis., was killed in the accident.
Barry and Joann Thompson are Alissa’s parents. She also has a brother, Lieutenant Corporal T.G. Thompson of the Marines. She grew up in Clyman, which is about an hour and a half away from campus, in Dodge County.
Alissa was a biology major who was concerned with protecting animals. Alissa spent her fall term in London, where she volunteered for the Royal Society for the Protection and Care of Animals. She was a member of the Biology Club at school. Alissa was also a staff photographer for this newspaper.
There have been many stories in newspapers around the area, as well as on the Lawrence website, concerning the circumstances of the accident. The reader can get only a basic picture of Alissa by hearing what her interests were, what activities she participated in, how old she was, and that she was willing to spend her spring break volunteering for the poor.
However, it is important also to know about Alissa herself and to know what a tragic loss her death is.
I have only known Alissa since September, and I know that many people would be more qualified in describing her. However, here are a few aspects of Alissa to put a personality behind the facts that have been covering the news.
She was a sweet girl, always concerned about her friends, always there to talk to anyone who was feeling down. She had a lot of character, and one of the best all-time sarcastic looks. Alissa could be talking about the cuteness of a dog (all dogs to Alissa were “puppies”), but could then turn around with a cleverly cynical comment about something else. She was shy, hated talking to groups of people, but was still an excellent arguer when it came to something she believed in.
Alissa loved lime green. She had a lime green coat, mittens, shoes, backpack, shirts, socks, and various lime green toys. Alissa had even dyed her hair green shortly before break.
Alissa loved collecting little knick-knacks. She had a room full of toys. She played the saxophone in high school, and when she would watch the Monday night jam sessions at the coffeehouse, she was always happiest when a saxophonist would play.
Alissa loved studying in London. She was always up for going to a new place, taking a trip to another British town, enjoying some of the excellent food, or seeing a new show. She particularly enjoyed watching the musical Rent on the West End.
Alissa believed in enjoying herself while abroad, and appreciated everything. She spent her 10-day break traveling to Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic. Her room at the Centre, shared with Natalie Crawford, was often the center of the social events in the house.
A lot of people saw Alissa’s artistic side around campus. In high school, Alissa was very active in art. In college, that was combined with her care for the world through her creative recycling of plastic bags. Alissa would cut plastic bags into strips which she would then crochet into bags, purses, and coin purses, and she even had the intention of creating an entire backpack.
I was lucky to have been able to spend a term with Alissa. She was a wonderful friend, and I cannot imagine that the hole she leaves on this campus can ever be filled.
Alissa was quiet, but behind that quietness she was a kind-hearted, funny, smart young woman. It does not seem right that Alissa is gone, but she will be remembered by all those who were lucky enough to know her.