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.