Madison (Maddy) Jewel Baird, a student at Walla Walla University, passed away today after being fatally struck by a motor vehicle yesterday afternoon. She was 20 years old.
Around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Baird was hit by a truck driving westbound on Whitman Avenue near the Walla Walla University campus. The truck driver told the Walla Walla County Sheriff’s Office that the setting sun caused a glare, affecting his visibility. He claims to have reduced his speed and did not even realize he had hit Baird until after felt his vehicle collide with her.
Baird was flown to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, Washington last night with numerous severe injuries, and several of her closest friends and family drove to Seattle to be by her side.
News of the accident spread rapidly through social media, and people from around the world began to lift up Baird, her friends, and her family in prayer.
On Wednesday evening, Walla Walla area healthcare professional Geary Heagy updated his Facebook page with a publicly-shared note from Baird’s father, Dr. Art Giebel:
The doctors have made it clear that modern medicine has nothing to offer. However, God still offers relationship and meaning [...] The very things that make Maddy so precious to us all. Our family continues to ask our Heavenly Father for healing and miracles, just like a child would ask a favor of their father. We know that a father loves to do things for the children he loves, but fathers do know best. We are persisting and begging our Heavenly Father for our wishes of healing, but we rest in the knowledge that He knows best and will trust Him whatever happens.”
Along with the message from Baird's father was a photograph of Baird's parents next to her in the hospital. The photo was shared 176 times on Facebook as of this article's publication.
Around 9 p.m., WWU President John McVay made an official statement on the university website entitled "WWU grieves loss of a special light," with the news of Baird’s passing:
We are saddened to inform you that Walla Walla University lost a treasured member of our campus family this evening with the death of Madison Baird. At the time of her death, Maddy was surrounded by family and friends, who were singing together and sharing messages of hope from the hundreds who loved her. Maddy was a bright light on our campus and in our community, and our hearts are broken.
Campus chaplains, counselors, and pastors are available this evening in Conard Chapel for students, faculty, and staff, and will be available as needed in the days to come. We will keep you informed about opportunities to celebrate Maddy’s life.”
Walla Walla Valley Academy, where Baird graduated in 2013, also posted a statement:
“It is with heavy hearts that we share with you the loss of Madison Jewel Baird, 2013 WWVA Alumni and sister of senior Josie Baird. Her joyful smile, zest for living, creativity, love for her creator and beautiful spirit inspired everyone she met
Please especially keep Josie, as well as her parents, family and friends, in your hearts and prayers. As our community has gathered in prayer and support, we have been reminded that this earth is not our home, and we are passing through.”
Andrews University’s Student Movement offered condolences upon hearing the news: “Hurting for our sister school tonight. Prayers for Madison’s friend and family. #MaddyStrong
Union College’s student paper, The Clocktower, also shared words of support: “Let us continue praying as our Walla Walla family goes through this time of need. ‘Weeping may come in the night, but joy comes in the morning.’ Psalm 30:5.”
PUC’s Campus Chronicle wrote: “Words cannot express the sorrow that pours out from this tragic event. #MaddyStrong.”
La Sierra University posted on their Facebook page: “Once again the entire La Sierra University family is united in support for a sister school, this time our friends at Walla Walla University […] To the entire Walla Walla University community—the students, faculty, staff, administration, and alumni—La Sierra University is united in prayer for you at this unbelievable time. May each of you feel God's loving arms surrounding your entire campus.”
Many WWU students expressed their sorrow and shock on social media. Over and over, the sentiment was repeated that Maddy was one of the kindest, happiest, and sweetest people most had had the privilege to meet. Even those who did not especially know her felt a deep sense of loss, and spoke fondly of their interactions, however brief.
The “Share Love For Maddy” Facbeook page has been saturated with favorite memories and moments with Maddy Baird.
WWU student Grant Perdew wrote: “Yesterday, moments before Maddy embarked on her bike ride to Whitman, I exchanged a few of the last words with her. I was standing outside The Atlas, and as she walked her bike to the crosswalk, she exclaimed to me with as much brightness as ever, ‘Grant! I can't believe how beautiful of a day it is!’ Madison Jewel Baird, your light did not ever, and will never stop shining. #maddystrong.”
Title Image: Madison Baird in a field near Sisters, Oregon in 2013.
Rachel Logan is a writing intern for Spectrum Magazine.