It was a Sunday.
It was ten days after Sarah Black’s sister started her newest internship at the Conservator Center in North Carolina to pursue her dreams.
“It’s Alex. She’s dead. She’s gone.”
Running down the stairs of her parent’s home, Black stared into the teary eyes of her parents, hoping they would say her younger sister's words were all a joke. They didn’t.
Black lost her older sister, Alex Black, in a lion attack Dec. 30, 2018.
“We were told she did everything she should’ve done,” Sarah Black said. “But the lion just never refocused on the food. It was just focused on her.
“If it hadn’t come to her, it could’ve gone out into the rest of the park, and there were school groups. There were children. There were families. She probably knew that she was the last line of defense.”
“You’ll Never Walk Alone”
After hearing the devastating news from her family, the junior elementary education major reached out to her second family at Ball State for comfort.
“The first thing I did was text my friends in Singers.” Black said. “I said, ‘I don’t know who to talk to right now, but I feel like I need to tell someone.’ And they were all there for me.”
As a token to Alex and the rest of the Black family, senior communications major Maria Mark reached out and asked if the University Singers could perform at the funeral.
Together, the Singers sang the acapella song “You’ll Never Walk Alone.”
While the support from her friends meant a lot to Black, she said the performance was especially special because her sister had never been able to see her perform with the University Singers due to the time she spent pursuing internships.
“She had never been able to see us perform, so that was our gift to her,” Mark said.
Black also sang and recorded the song “Never Love Again,” from the movie “A Star Is Born,” which was played at the closing of the funeral.
“While that song is about losing a lover, it’s also about losing a part of you, and Alex was a big part of me,” Black said. “She was my big sister.”
After taking an extra week off school and visiting the Conservator Center in North Carolina, Black learning more information about the death of her sister.
“I didn’t want to wait then rip the band-aid off later, so I pushed to make that happen. I pushed to go and visit [the employees at the Conservator Center,]” Black said. “Then, I got all my answers.”
After, Black was able to reflect on the different stages of her sister’s death. She made it a priority to reevaluate her self-motivation and confidence before stepping onto the next stage in her life.
“I spent my entire life trying not to be [Alex] and figure out who I was, but so much of that was based on who she was,” Black said. “So, from here, it’s been like, ‘Well, now what?’”
After working with the counseling center, Black said she has learned to look at herself in a new light and embrace herself while appreciating how her sister shaped her.
Black now takes part in conversations that heavily discuss zoo regulation and safety, which she never saw herself doing, because of the passion she has for her sister.
“[Alex] was making a movement and being an activist because that was something she loved. She loved making waves,” Black said.
When Black returned to Ball State for the spring semester, she went through her entire wardrobe, cleaned her house, bleached her hair and planned to get a tattoo of her sister’s name in her handwriting with a wolf's paw print. She said even the small things made a huge difference in helping her feel again.
Through her grieving, Black said her friends from the Singers were immediately there for her.
Mark, who met Black during community theatre in Indianapolis, said she “didn’t want [Black] to be alone” once she got back to Muncie.
“I just remember that she was very upbeat and positive, which was not at all what I expected,” Mark said. “But, that’s just the kind of person she is.”
Another friend, junior accounting major Justin McMiller, was also there for Black because the two had become close during their trip to London.
“Not many people can say that their sister was attacked by a lion, so it definitely caught me off guard,” McMiller said. “So, I gave her space, and a few days later, I sent her some uplifting photos just to make sure she had a smile on her face, even if it was just for a minute.”
McMiller and a few other members of University Singers also invited her to their houses to try to keep her mind off her sister’s death.
“I never got the chance to meet Alex, but just from the stories that Sarah has told, you can just tell how much love Alex had for what she did and how much love Sarah had for her sister,” McMiller said.
“Never Love Again”
During the University Singers’ audition for the 55th Annual Spectacular Show, Black decided to again sing “Never Love Again.” Three months later, Black displayed her dedication to her sister in front of a family of alum and students.
“I was trying to figure out from the start what do I do to make this a memory of her … So, I came back and auditioned the song, and it’s been in almost every performance since then,” Sarah Black said.
Since this is her last year as a member of the Singers, Black said it was important to her to integrate the importance of her sister and her connection to the rest of the Singers into each of her performances.
Although she is leaving a lot of things behind this year, Black said she is proud of the memories created within both her own family and University Singers.
“[The Singers] have been there every moment, so if I am ever having a rough day, I can just show up at one of their houses,” Black said. “It’s been really amazing to have those people to lean on, in every way possible.”
Contact Tierra Harris with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.