Ross Langdon / Elif Yavuz

September 23, 2013

This morning I slammed down the phone hard and burst into tears when told of Ross Langdon’s death in Kenya at the Nairobi mall. The screams that came out were guttural and intensely grief stricken.

He was a much loved local lad. He was a colleague and friend who went out into the world as an architect doing wondrous things. Yet Ross always returned to his family and cultural roots here on the Tasman Peninsula and we all took immense pride in both his architectural abilities and his very generous, positive, and loving personality. There just was no dark side to Ross that I ever saw in the twenty or so years I knew him.

I would always bring up Ross as an example of how a young person — growing up in a rural setting — benefited from this closer connection to nature than could be had at the more “elite” urban schools.

He designed  — pro bono —  an aids hospital in Kenya. Being in his early 30’s he had already given a TED talk. In Uganda he designed and supervised a unique eco-village employing only local labour. There is much, much more. For one so relatively young, the list of achievements is long.

Let me just mention this, however: Ross was about to start on a $35 million museum centered around the earliest fossil record of humanoids walking: two adults and one child. Ironic, because equally tragic is that his partner Elif Yavuz and their unborn child (due in two weeks) were also killed in the massacre. When they visited me at Windgrove a year and a half ago, Elif had just completed a PhD at Harvard; last month she was personally visited by Bill Clinton in her role with the [Bill] Clinton Health Access Initiative based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

A week ago I wrote about how talented people needed to move out of their comfort zones and get involved with changing the world before the ongoing “unraveling” tipped into the No-Return stage. For me, and a big reason for today’s grief, is that Ross and Elif symbolized the sort of people doing the Work. They were agents-of-change in the best sense.

Both had dedicated their lives to working for a peaceful world. Both had so much to offer.

Besides a personal loss for myself, this is a major global loss. This cannot be underestimated or glossed over by the political pundits who will label Ross and Elif and their unborn child as unfortunate casualties in the war on terror.

Yes, I have been punched in the stomach. Yes, I have collapsed emotionally. Yes, I am not feeling particularly happy or even “forgiving”.

But there is another Yes. And this is a bigger “yes” that says — in honour of Ross and Elif — I will eventually pick up the pieces and continue on with the sort of work they themselves were so involved in: bringing about change to a tattered world based — not on religious grounds or economic gain — just a pure love for all of humanity and the natural world.

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