I have the very sad duty of reporting that Eric Fatla, one of my first-year evening law students has died in Chicago. Eric was 26 years old. I have been informed that Eric died today shortly after 1 p.m. from the severe injuries that he sustained in his fall at the Union League Club in Chicago shortly before Christmas. I cannot express the profound sadness over the loss of Eric who was a brilliant young man with an extraordinary background and an even brighter future. As shown by the outpouring of comments on this blog and other messages sent directly to the family, Eric’s tragedy has left many in shock and disbelief. We have lost a good friend and a wonderful person at George Washington and he will be long missed by those who knew him.
In speaking with his father, Ed, and mother, Marcia, over the last few days, I have learned so much more about Eric and his remarkable life. I had Eric as a member of my Torts class and Legal Theory class. I used to tease him in class for being a White Sox fan. In one of the first classes, he refused to recant his support for the White Sox . . . even when I threatened arbitrary and retaliatory grading as a Cubs fan. He and I, however, found a point of alliance in our mutual dedication (obsession?) with the Chicago Bears. I would often speak with Eric during the break and in the halls. I last saw him after the Legal Theory exam and we both discussed our plans to return home to Chicago in a matter of days.
Eric took his father to the Union Club and, when they were heading home, Ed went briefly to the restroom. When he descended the stairs, he found Eric at the bottom of the stairs. It is still not clear how he fell. He suffered extremely grave injuries. His family has been at his bedside the entire time. They have fulfilled Eric’s wishes to be an organ donor.
When I first learned of Eric’s fall on Christmas Eve, I was heading to Midnight Mass with my kids. I sat at St. Mary’s of the Lake trying to comprehend the incomprehensible loss of a person so young and so full of life. Eric had already accomplished more than most people accomplish in a lifetime. He had gone to China on a research project, gone to Honduras as an election monitor, and worked in Congress as a staffer. He was currently with a lobbying and law firm while attending class in the evenings. He told his Dad about his “five-year-plan,” which included finding a wife and having children. Ever since Eric almost died of a brain hemorrhage in high school, he led a purposeful and active life. He was constantly in motion — planning new adventures and organizing his life with precision and passion. He was a unique and extraordinary person.
The death of someone so young and so full of life is a tragic absurdity. It is impossible to find meaning in such a death. Instead, we have to find meaning in his life. Eric showed us that every moment that we spend with friends and loved ones is precious and irreplaceable. He also showed us how to live life the fullest — creating our own path. I will truly miss Eric and I have , with so many professors and students at George Washington, expressed my deepest condolences to the Fatla family.