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Daily News Editorial

By Staff | Sep 2, 2009

It’s touching to see how people come together in a time of grief.

That’s what happened after Robert May, 59, of Newton passed away Friday at Avera Holy Family Health in Estherville. May was a student in the wind energy and turbine technology program and lost consciousness during a climb up the wind turbine at Iowa Lakes Community College.

Soon after, Iowa Lakes students were canvassing Estherville businesses asking for donations of goods and services for May’s family. And, as is typical for Estherville, not one business turned down the request to help a total stranger.

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, students, faculty and the public gathered for a commemorative ceremony at the base of the turbine to honor May’s memory. Speakers included Darin Moeller, executive dean of the Estherville campus, and Iowa Lakes President Valerie Newhouse. Faculty and students from the wind program also planned on attending a funeral service for May Tuesday night in Newton.

As was fitting, the wind turbine has been out of operation since Friday and was scheduled to return to service Wednesday morning. There are plans later to place a plaque honoring May inside the turbine.

What happened to May was a tragedy. However, it was a tragedy that could have happened at any place at any time. It just happened to occur last Friday in the college wind turbine in Estherville. Despite the immediate response by program director Al Zeitz, faculty and students, May passed away.

No doubt, the students will grieve. Hopefully, though, this tragedy will be seen for what it was – an unfortunate event at the beginning of a new school year.

The wind energy students can and will pull together. They have an obvious camaraderie that’s infectious – undoubtedly something instilled in them by Al Zeitz who learned such core principles through his time in the military.

The Iowa Lakes Community College community will also heal from this tragedy. The entire campus will come together and everyone will heal together – moment by moment, minute by minute, hour by hour and day by day until they are whole again.

Placing a plaque inside the turbine is a very appropriate gesture. It will assure that Robert May will not be forgotten. It will also remind students that they are entering no easy occupation and that while the rewards are great, there are inherent dangers and safety must be their number-one concern.

And, most of all, every student in the program will remember one of their own when they see the turbine turning on the southern horizon.