Rick Pirko: the Perfect Stranger
It still pains me sometimes, to think about who was lost on October 15, 2008. He was a friend of mind, and a stranger nonetheless. I had known Rick for no more than a year, and yet his death shattered my world.
Rick was a technician who worked at my local planetarium. He was also a pilot, photographer, and countless other things. It may not sound like much, but that planetarium continues to be an amazing place for me.
Rick's impact on my life went far beyond the stars. I maintain, to this day, that Rick saved my life. I was nothing but a lost teen trying to find friends. I became lost during the worst winter of my life, when divorce and sadness ran rampant in my family. Suicide was constantly on my mind. And it took Rick to save me.
Rick was the kind of friend that amazed you. There was a quiet sort of magic to him, he made everything interesting, everything special. He was a grown man treating a twelve year old like she was worth something. He would talk to me after shows and interest me in things. He would smile at me and give me learning materials. He would take me up in his airplane. All things you would never expect from a perfect stranger. And he didn't even realize he was saving me from myself.
Now, when I think of him, I think of him as a hero. I hardly knew him, and yet he saved me. No amount of words on a screen can describe how I feel. He died perfectly young, at the age of fifty-five. That big heart of his didn't hold out. I didn't find out until two days later.
The pain was horrific. Never in my twelve years have I felt that way. No words can sum it up. The grief still hits me sometimes, when I least expect it to. I'll see a plane, see a star, or see someone who reminds me of him. His quiet attitude and soft smile seem to come to me everyday. His voice sits in the back of my mind.
Being only twelve, and knowing him so little, I feel writing about him to be trespassing in someone else's business. His family should write about him. His friends. Some have, and some haven't. So I guess I will.
I am only twelve, but I will never forget.