If I'm not mistaken, my family moved to South Boulder around the same time as the Lignells. I met Hanna in third grade at Mesa Elementary, and I remember that, every weekday, I would walk home down Heidelberg past the Lignells' to my new home on a cul-de-sac down near Viele Lake, at a brand new school in an unfamiliar place where everyone already knew each other and had sorted themselves into permanent friend groups with what I feared to be no vacancies. The reason I mention this is that I distinctly remember feeling a strange kinship or solidarity, as it felt like we were going through the same growing pains and awkwardness of integrating into the community, getting to know the place, finding a good fit. That was the closest thing I felt to belonging in Boulder at the time, and it made me feel less alone and more able to cope with the big changes.
I never knew Maddy during my time in Boulder. I moved from Chicago to Los Angeles in the summer of 2018, and the pandemic hit in the spring of 2020. The restaurant I had been bartending and serving at since I had moved to L.A. promptly closed as a result of in-house dining restrictions; first temporarily, then for good. The extra time combined with the urgency of the circumstances propelled me into a deeper involvement in local politics, activism, and mutual aid. I joined Sunrise Movement Los Angeles in early 2020.
One evening, this past spring, I was hopping on Zoom for a meeting with a small group of Sunrise folks. We were in the ground-floor stages of developing virtual, distributed Green New Deal (GND) Teach-Ins for Sunrise organizers all over the country, a project that has expanded from a tiny 50-person event in Los Angeles to an ongoing, national Sunrise event promoted by AOC and led by the L.A. hub. That night, during the meeting, I noticed a new, friendly face with a familiar last name. On a hunch, I reached out over the Slack afterward to ask if he was the Lignell I thought he was, by some bizarre coincidence. He confirmed, indulging and navigating the random dude reaching out to him and claiming a spurious Colorado connection. We shared what I imagine to be the online equivalent of a brief chuckle at the serendipity, the odds of two Boulder guys finding themselves in a politically-active climate coalition on the west coast (thinking about it now, it's really not that unlikely, but hey). That was the extent of our communications, but I feel immensely fortunate and privileged at having had the opportunity to speak to him so recently, and I feel a bottomless loss and mystification at having missed a chance to spend time and be a new friend, and to get to know his brilliant, playful, goofy spirit that you can see shining all over the gallery.
Maddy, by all accounts, loved Sunrise, and because he was in Sunrise, I feel like I know him ever so slightly better, like I can fill in some of the enormous gaps. It shows he believed in something bigger than himself and in taking fearless action on behalf of said Bigger Thing. It shows that he cared about the planet, that he loved nature, that he loved people, and that he carried them all with him as we carry him today.
I will continue to ache and wonder at the enigmatic grace of our recent, chance encounter. I am so grateful and so hurt that I am getting to know him through your stories.
My heart is with the Lignell family and everyone else who loved, adored, and appreciated Maddy.