Heather Matthews, Contributing Writer
Once upon a time, in a small town an hour and 15 minutes north of Oneonta, there lived a girl named Alexandra Kogut. Alex was a happy girl, who was captain of the varsity swim team her senior year upon graduation, she attended SUNY Brockport as a communications major. Also a part of this story was Alex’s boyfriend, Clayton Whittemore. Clayton and Alex both attended the same high school, with Clayton graduating in 2010 and Alex in 2012. Unfortunately, this fairy tale does not have a happy ending. On Saturday, September 29, Alexandra Kogut was found dead in her dorm room at Brockport at the age of 18.
The senseless loss of a young person is always traumatic, and as an alumnus from the same high school as Alex and Clayton, I can attest for the shock waves that have rocked my community. Since Saturday morning, Alex’s death has been on my lips, trying to figure out how somebody so young can be buried this week; an 18-year-old girl will never graduate college, have a career, get married, have a family or even just turn 19 years old. Alexandra will not wake up tomorrow, she will never hug her mom again, and her little sister will never get advice from Alex again. These alone are hard facts to grapple with, let alone the fact that I am from the same graduating class as Clayton, who, hours after being arrested, admitted to causing Alex’s death. Not to get into details of a murder case that not much is known about yet, nor to jump to conclusions based off of speculation, town rumors and our local Topix page, but after Clayton was found on the Thruway an hour and a half away from Alex’s room where her body lay, things are not looking good for him. Even more damning is that he apparently did admit to causing the intentionally blunt force trauma death of his girlfriend; a girl who trusted and loved him. Nothing is quite as sad as the death of a young girl, especially at the hands of someone who should have been protecting and loving her.
Before Alex’s story was picked up by ABC, CNN, YNN, NBC and all other news sources, our little town of New Hartford has been in mourning. As we only graduate about 200 kids per class, we all know each other. With only 600 students in the high school at a given time, you learn everybody’s face, stories and accomplishments. I can’t say how many swim meets I attended and saw Alex compete at, nor how many hockey games I attended and saw Clayton help his team win the game. Due to our size, our town is also quick to bond together and pick up a cause. On October 1, the entire high school wore purple in memorial of Alex and to raise domestic violence awareness. Purple balloons were also released off of our football field in her honor. Alumni from all over the state and country wore purple to commemorate the life of a girl taken too soon from this world. The hashtags #ripAK and #spartanstrong have trended on Twitter as we New Hartford Spartans all put aside our differences and turned to each other for comfort and understanding. Our local news anchors wore purple on Monday to honor Alex, and everywhere that you look, videos, pictures and prayers are popping up with Alex’s name.
Now that Alex’s funeral service information has been released, the finality of her death has begun to set in for those who attended our high school, as well as those around the country who have heard Alex’s story and who identify with the small town girl with a bright smile and an even brighter future. Never again will Alex attend a class at Brockport, nor will she attend her ten year high school reunion. Yet we can honor her name by raising awareness for domestic violence. It is almost impossible to find a silver lining in such a news story that tells how one life was taken, one life was wasted, and an entire community feels the repercussions of anotherís rage. However, with two families now shattered beyond fixing and an entire town in mourning, we must take from this tragedy that life is something both fleeting and precious. We must love without causing pain, and we must strive to honor the memories of those taken too soon from us. Though Clayton’s trial will drag on, and it is entirely possible that we will never know the truth of the events that led to Alex’s death by beating, Alexandra Kogut will always be a New Hartford Spartan with a dazzling smile and a kind and gentle heart, as well as a reminder of an untimely death undeserved.