The Passing of Eric Fatla

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.

Jonathan Turley

40 thoughts on “The Passing of Eric Fatla

  1. I posted this in the other diary, but re-post it here for those who might miss it.

    Bless him and his loved ones. As one who knows, his parents will never have a day, as long as they draw a breath, that they do not think of him. Not a day. We cannot stand in their shoes, but we can stand beside them in vigil.

    For Eric, Godspeed on your journey to forever….

    The pipers play for Eric this evening. This pipe tune, “Mull of Kintyre,” was piped at the memorial service for my son. I share it this evening with Eric’s parents. Godspeed, Eric…

  2. Its always sad when a good mind is lost to accident, one will never know now what possible impact he may have had on society. Only read about him here, and felt touched by it. My condolences to his family and all who knew him.

  3. There is ample meaning in his life and that which he accomplished.

    A very fitting eulogy for an extraordinary person.

    Ave atque vale!

  4. Prof. Turley,

    Thank you for your words in commemoration of our friend. There are many of his friends from his time on Capitol Hill together right now, and reading your post out loud made us all feel a bit better.

    You are right that it is impossible to find meaning in this tragic loss of someone who meant so much to us. I only hope we all find peace with his passing and honor his life going forward. Thank you again.

    Yours in Christ,


  5. Professor Turley,

    I’m one of Eric’s close friends and I wanted to thank you for a beautifully written send off for my pal. I hope he wouldn’t mind me saying, but he was extremely fond of you. When we saw you on Countdown or recently on the Senate floor he was very proud to have been given the opportunity to learn the law from you. I speak for Eric’s friends in thanking you for your kind words throughout this ordeal – you really captured what he was all about. I respected him immensely and I am really going to miss him.

  6. I can’t express my sorrow in hearing about his passing. To lose a child at any age is something that will haunt his parents for a long time. He is already missed by his teachers and fellow law students. As a former night division law student, I know the dedication and hard work that he endured to follow his dream. My family’s prayers and thoughts go to his family and friends at this difficult time.

  7. Cook County Children’s Hospital, Pediatric Cardiology Catheterization Laboratory.

    A baby born a few days before, a congenital heart condition, catheterization, ventricular perforation, cardiac tamponade, parents crying in anguish. I was there.

    Words, where are the words?

    Toward noon, as I walked into our home in Oak Park, Illinois, the phone was ringing. Our son, Michael, and his wife, Shelly, were to have come there later that afternoon

    My wife, “I have terrible news. Michael and Shelly were killed this morning.”

    Words, where are the words?

    Life is, to me, a precious gift, so precious that every person always does everything actually possible with the gift of life as it is given. It is given to me to cry sorrow at times and to cry joy at times.

    Let us be Compassionate Friends…

    So be it.

  8. I turn to poetry during sad times in my life when I usually find myself at a loss for words. I read the following poem at my father-in-law’s funeral service. I post it here in memory of Eric.

    Let Evening Come
    by Jane Kenyon

    Let the light of late afternoon
    shine through chinks in the barn, moving
    up the bales as the sun moves down.

    Let the cricket take up chafing
    as a woman takes up her needles
    and her yarn. Let evening come.

    Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
    in long grass. Let the stars appear
    and the moon disclose her silver horn.

    Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
    Let the wind die down. Let the shed
    go black inside. Let evening come.

    To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
    in the oats, to air in the lung
    let evening come.

    Let it come, as it will, and don’t
    be afraid. God does not leave us
    comfortless, so let evening come.

  9. May the Fatla family find some comfort in the respect and affection expressed by the people that knew Eric and their own loving memories of him.

    Please accept my condolences on the loss of your son.

  10. Sadly, Eric may have fallen victim to his old high school football head injury. We won’t know until the autopsy reports are in, but long term effects of brain hemorrhage include episodic dizziness and sometimes double vision. Idiopathic falls like this are often the result of dizziness, and given the medical history we know about, this serves as one plausible — and sad — explanation. As an avid football fan and coach, these injuries scare me the most. I noted Eric’s love of the game too.

  11. My condolences to all who will miss Eric and to all who read this message and still suffer the profound loss of a loved one.

    May God comfort your hearts and guide you to the healing necessary to honor the beautiful life and lives of those you now morn.

  12. After reading these expressions of love, it is clear that Eric brought a smile to the hearts of his friends, family and the staff and students at GWU.
    My deepest condolences.

  13. This story got to me. I graduated from university just a week or two ago, at a rather late age. Nothing so severe as brain trauma, but I too have had a health condition always on the horizon that I feel has always pushed me when my body and mind were tired. This reminds me of why we push so hard; because we have so little time. Eric at least had the benefit of knowing that and made the most of the life he had, when most of us only theorize it and waste so many of those precious years.

  14. Most sincere condolences to the Fatla family and friends on the loss of Eric. Although I did not have the pleasure of knowing him personally, he must have been quite a fellow to garner such lovely tribute as seen here. The world is surely lesser for the loss of Eric Fatla, but he is never truly gone as long as he lives in your memories.

  15. I had the pleasure of being Eric’s 4th grade teacher. I am saddened by this tragedy. My sympathy to the Fatla family.

  16. Eric sounds like a wonderful person. My deepest condolences to Eric’s family and friends, I’m very sorry for your loss.

  17. When a young man such as Eric Fatla walks this earth with pride, honor, and firm senses of purpose/accomplishment and fairness—all without braggadocios swaggering; rather, accompanied by contagious self-confidence—his lasting influences reflecting his brief time here are as incalculable as they are immutable.


  18. Something unnatural for a son to pass before a parent….My deepest sympathy to the family and loved ones of this gem of the universe…..

  19. “There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief…and unspeakable love.”

    Washington Irving

  20. Prof Turley

    I posted this, in a similar fashion, on Scott Greenfield’s blog the other day, and thought I’d repost here:

    Your post, and the related post of Mr. Greenfield, certainly struck a nerve here and brought tears to my eyes. The holidays are already crazy but for me they reboot the images and memories of the loss of my 19-year old son Andrew on 11/5/08. I wish Andrew would have had people like you and Mr. Greenfield writing about him, telling the world what a wonderful, loving, creative, talented exciting kid he was – he never knew or “got” that, I think – but the hundreds of people who stood in a long, bitter cold line that stretched out the funeral home door for blocks just to say a few words about what he meant to them hammered that point home to me.

    I am hopeful that Eric’s family can draw strength during this time from the fact that Eric touched so many lives in such a wonderfully positive way – I know I did. Eric clearly lit a flame in many, many people…

    While your support for his family is certainly important right now, don’t forget that 2, 5 and 10 holidays from now Eric’s family and friends will still be coming to grips with their loss, still vividly feeling his presence, so remember them in your thoughts and prayers and friendship forever.

    Life is not a right or privilege – a club we can demand entry into with some expectation of having it in our grasp at will – life is a gift of unknown duration to be guarded preciously and lived aggressively – you should never treat it like a handful of sand, slipping mindlessly through your fingers – Make yours count and make sure you let people like Eric know how important they are – you don’t know whether your time with them numbers in years, months, weeks, days, minutes or seconds…

  21. steve magas:

    “I wish Andrew would have had people like you and Mr. Greenfield writing about him, telling the world what a wonderful, loving, creative, talented exciting kid he was – he never knew or “got” that, I think – but the hundreds of people who stood in a long, bitter cold line that stretched out the funeral home door for blocks just to say a few words about what he meant to them hammered that point home to me.”


    Simple acts of honor and respect for those who have passed are more eloquent than any words spoken in eulogy no matter how poignant. You have your son’s elegy written right before your eyes in the silent and abundant testimony of his mourners.

  22. Steve,
    I am sorry for your loss. Your words are a good reminder to us all that our time here is finite. I look at my kids and now my grandkids and wonder how much more of their lives I will witness. I hope I can give them all that they need, while I am able to give it. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Eric was well-loved and respected at Illinois Wesleyan University. He was a scholar, leader, activist, philanthropist, musician, and most of all, a person of unwavering integrity. His classmates, faculty and staff ache for his family. We honor and celebrate Eric’s good life and pray for his family’s peace. As former IWU President Minor Myers instructed graduates, “Go into the world and do well. But more importantly, go into the world and do good”. Eric did just that. He makes us proud.

  24. I remember Eric as a high school student, a football player with my son. I remember how worried we all were when he was hurt then and couldn’t begin to imagin how hard it had to be for his family, waiting and worring, wondering if he’d be ok. Once again I can not imagine the pain and saddness that the Fatla family is going through, please know our thoughts and prayers are with you. Remembering Eric fondly and wishing you peace at this most difficult time.
    The Longbons family

  25. I lived across the hall from Eric in the dorms at American University. He became one of my closest friends over the course of that semester and I am heart broken to hear of his death. I feel priviledged to have known him as well as I did and I am proud to say he was my friend. I’ll never forget the countless late night conversations and debates that would last for hours about every topic imaginable.

    Goodbye dear friend, I miss you already. So much.

    Love always,

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