It was the summer before my sixie year at Boston Latin School. I had just come downstairs and gone into the kitchen when my mother told me, somberly, “Aaliyah died this morning.” I said, “Oh,” and went into the living room, where the TV would inevitably be on some news channel confirming what my mother had just said. Sure enough, the TV was on MSNBC, the anchors discussing the plane crash that had taken the lives of the 22-year-old singer and eight others. I went numb. Unable to watch more of the coverage, I went back up to my room and cried. This couldn’t be happening. She was too young, too talented to die. It wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t.
In the days that followed, my best friend and I reminisced about the affectionately nicknamed Baby Girl. When I received I Care 4 U, a posthumous album of previously unreleased music, we spent hours trying to copy the dances for “Rock the Boat” and “More Than a Woman.” We still had so much love in our hearts for Aaliyah, and it was our way of honoring her memory.
It has now been 10 years since Aaliyah Dana Haughton’s passing. So much has changed in 10 years, not just in the music industry, but in the country and the world. And though she was just one person, I can’t help but wonder how different things would be if she and her crew hadn’t gotten on that plane. Maybe R&B wouldn’t be suffering what seems like a slow, painful death. Maybe she would be sitting on top of the charts instead of the likes of Lady Gaga, Beyonce, and Rihanna. Maybe she would have been the next Halle Berry had she decided to keep acting. We have no idea what she could have become, and no idea what we lost when she died.
In remembering Aaliyah, we must remember that, while we may have loved her music and movies and believe that we loved her as a person, there are those that loved her for real. What we felt with her passing is nothing compared to their loss. And though ten years have passed, their suffering will continue for a lifetime. Her parents lost a daughter, her brother a sister. Her friends, her team, all of them will live with that emptiness that none of us, no matter how much we think we “knew” her, could ever imagine. Remember to keep them in your thoughts as well.
Rest in peace, Aaliyah. We miss you.