An Instant Friend

Name: Hayley Ramsey

Location: Wichita, Kansas

Relationship to Jessica: Friend

I met Jessica in July 2001 in Washington, D.C., when we both attended Presidential Classroom.

Jessica & Hayley at Presidential Classroom


I met Jessica in the summer of 2001 when we both attended Presidential Classroom in Washington, DC. I was nervous about being away from home and among complete strangers for a whole week. I remember meeting some other kids attending PC on the shuttle ride from the airport to the hotel, and they had quickly started comparing GPAs and extra-curricular activities. I was worried I was in for a long, lonely week.

Later that day I was assigned to my small group, the group I would spend nearly the entire week with, and I was lucky enough to have Jessica assigned to my group. She came in a little late and sat down next to me, and I immediately felt less lonely. We became fast friends and spent the week together. She introduced me to Starbucks after-coffee mints and taught me how to speak with a New Jersey accent. We both enjoyed the activities of PC but didn’t take it as seriously as some of the other kids, and just had a good time together. I look back on that week fondly, mostly because of Jessica. Sure, it was good to be in DC and learn about government, but the best part was laughing with my new friend.

At the end of the week I was sad to say good bye to her, but we kept in touch with phone calls, letters, and e-mails. We could talk on the phone for hours, about the absurdities of high school and our college plans. We gradually started calling each other less, as we moved on through college and got busy. Later, after we found each other on Facebook, we messaged each other from time to time. Even if it’d been a year since I’d last messaged her, Jessica always replied promptly and as though she couldn’t have been more excited to hear from me. She always made me feel like I was special to her.

I was unbelievably sad when I learned about her death, but I haven’t been surprised at all by the response to it or what I’ve read about her since then. I wasn’t surprised she was considered a rising star in her company, or that she was such a good friend to so many, or that she did so much for others.

We spent only seven days together, with a few dozen phone calls and a handful of Facebook messages in the years following that week, but I knew the same person everyone else knew. Someone warm, bright, generous and funny.

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