I am proud to be among what must be a huge number of people who called Keylon Thompson a friend. There is no exaggeration when I say that Keylon was the kindest, most compassionate person I have ever known. He was so full of life and a spirit of adventure that we all felt like slackers in comparison to him.
He would post those crazy photos on Facebook—Keylon at the National Spelling Bee, Keylon at the Special Olympics, Keylon on the top of some mountain somewhere, Keylon biking in a cancer cure fundraiser, Keylon in Times Square, Keylon at a music festival in Mongolia. (I made up the Mongolia thing, but he went to music festivals and concerts with no regard to geographic restrictions, especially if Bela Fleck was involved.) I compared him to Forrest Gump because seemingly he was part of everything fun that was happening everywhere. So I started calling him Forrest.
Then one day in September of 2013, a gunman came into a building at the Washington Navy Yard and killed 12 people. That was where Keylon worked and he was there when the shooting happened, but he was not injured. It was a bad day for Forrest.
The gunman didn’t kill him, but cancer did. For me, I’m crushed to know that I’ll never see him again, never get one of those world-class hugs from the nicest guy in the world. The only thing I can do is carry a little ray of his sunshine, try to remember to do what he would do—live a big life with a big, big kind heart.
I’ll miss you, Forrest.