Lost Horizon



There’s a scene in the Frank Capra movie Lost Horizon that always shakes me, no matter how many times I watch it. It’s near the end of the film, when Hugh Conway meets the leader of Shangri-La- the High Lama. In this meeting, Conway is introduced to all the truths of the magical place. All the answers to all the many questions are finally within his grasp, and that’s when he begins to understand the design his life is supposed to follow.

A little more than a year ago, Sydney Aiello was busy sewing together the designs on what her life was going to look like. A high school cheerleader who always brought a smile with her to Monday mornings, she loved Yoga and music and fancy gowns and hanging out with her best friend in the world, Meadow Pollack.

Sydney was figuring it all out. Test scores and heartbreak would one day lead to dream jobs and marriage, with forever stretched out in front of her as if the vista from some fictional mountaintop.

And then Nikolas Cruz brought an assault rifle to Marjory Stoneman High School last Valentine’s Day, ambushing eighteen of her fellow students- including Aiello’s best friend, Meadow- and then everything changed. And then the way forever used to look from that mountaintop whose peaks were crowned in an eternal smile, collapsed.

She made it out of that horrible day, in body. But her mind and her spirit remained fixed to the moments that stole those seventeen souls. She enrolled at Florida Atlantic University, but struggled to attend classes because of the memories she carried with her from Stoneman.

She posted on social media frequently, rarely if ever sharing the darkness that resided inside of her. She posted pictures of those better days with Meadow and her friends, and she talked excitedly about how she would be teaching her first Yoga class. But there was always a shadow attached to the words she spoke and the pictures she shared.

She carried it, all of it, for as long a time as she could until forever stopped making any sense at all. And then last weekend, it all came crashing down when Sydney put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger. Nineteen years worth of her is all we got. Eternity gets the rest.

When do we ask ourselves how it all went so wrong? When do we ask ourselves why labeling the survivors of Marjory Stoneman High School makes more sense than listening to them? When do we ask ourselves why our kids are growing tired of the world when they’re supposed to be growing old inside of it?

At the end of Lost Horizon, Hugh Conway leaves the world behind and returns to Shangri-La. And with his return, he will find the answers to all those questions the world could never supply.

If only it were that easy.


73 thoughts on “Lost Horizon

  1. My heart aches for each of the young people who have experienced this sort of catastrophe, at a time of life that ought to signify self-realization coupled with a group dynamic centered on fun and solving problems together. Sydney was, like so many others, obviously a complex personality. No one can take the smiles of the suffering, at face value, without being there for her/him when the darkness intrudes.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Reblogged this on A Dalectable Life and commented:

    We focus on the ones who have done the damage and the ones who have lost their lives during the horrors but what of those who survived? They try to go on living life as they are “supposed to” but for some, that is impossible.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I cannot make sense of this at all. This girl and her friends had their lives cut short by a monster with a gun. No one should carry a gun unless their job demands it.
    We have knife crime in the UK it is appalling, no one should carry a knife. No one should carry a weapon. Make weapons illegal.
    I am not surprised these children that survive these incidents don’t think life is worth living… I wonder if it is worth it myself sometimes.
    You have written this post beautifully though.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thank you. It’s important to remember that these tragedies don’t end the moment the last bullet is fired. They go on and on and on for those who lived through them. Thank you for the reminder.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A beautiful way to point out the struggles of those with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It is sad that Sydney could not have found help. Maybe someone reading your post knows of someone who could use support and as a result, give it. You are saintly Mr. Marc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • John,

      Sydney had posted on social media as per the idea that friends and loved ones need to listen, and to pay attention to the warning signs.

      Most will not exhibit any signs outwardly. The closest she came was in that warning. It’s a very complicated situation for those who WANT to be there. But sometimes, the damage is too severe.

      Thank you for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Marc,
    Thank you for this. Every teen suicide breaks my heart. No one… no one should feel a need to end their pain at such an early stage in the (admittedly painful) life process. I wish I knew what to do to prevent this. I really, really do. I would do it. Anything.😢😢

    Liked by 1 person

    • She had a lifetime ahead of her, but sometimes that pain convinces someone that forever doesn’t count for very much.
      And now comes word that one of the parents whose child was taken in the Newton shooting back in 2012 took his life.
      It’s an epidemic.


    • Viva,

      Amen. Too many adults have tried to marginalize what these kids are saying. We shouldn’t be judging them for voicing what they feel, we should be listening and engaging.

      Thank you for the comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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