WAYLAND, Mass. — "What we have to remember is that we can still do anything," Marina Keegan wrote to fellow Yale University graduates. "... We can't, we must not lose this sense of possibility because in the end, it's all we have."
Three days after the Yale alumna's death in a car crash, her parents, Tracy and Kevin Keegan, said from their Massachusetts home that it was comforting that even strangers were drawing inspiration from their daughter's words as her last newspaper column spread across the Internet.
"I would love my daughter's words, few as they may be, to be shared," Tracy Keegan said. "... That's all that's left of her now, her words."
Yale Daily News Editor Max de La Bruyere said Tuesday that the newspaper put Keegan's print column online as a tribute following her death Saturday on Cape Cod. He said it had gotten 400,000 hits on the newspaper's website after first spreading through Yale students' Facebook and Twitter accounts. The newspaper tracked readers as far away as Asia.
"It's a huge outpouring of sympathy," he said. "People are very moved by it."
The 22-year-old's column talked about anxiety that came with the feeling of losing the web of fellowship at Yale. She said what she wanted out of life was "the opposite of loneliness," and encouraged classmates by saying "the best years of our lives are not behind us."
"It's not quite love and it's not quite community," the English major wrote of her time at Yale. "It's just this feeling that there are people, an abundance of people, who are in this together."
The Keegans said their daughter's boyfriend, 22-year-old Michael Gocksch of Centerport, N.Y., fell asleep at the wheel while driving with her to their family's summer place in Wellfleet on Cape Cod.
The young couple had been to Brookline earlier in the day so their daughter could introduce her boyfriend and fellow 2012 graduate to her grandmother. The couple was heading to a birthday dinner for Keegan's father when she died. Gocksch was hospitalized in stable condition after the crash and later discharged.
Massachusetts State Police are still investigating the cause of the crash, which occurred on Route 6 in the town of Dennis. They said speed wasn't a factor and both were wearing seatbelts. The vehicle drifted off the road and into guardrails on both sides of the road before flipping.
Keegan's parents said she was about to start a job as an assistant to the general counsel at The New Yorker, where she interned last summer and got some of her work onto a magazine blog.
The New York Times also published a piece she wrote after another column she did for the Yale Daily News sparked a debate about why 25 percent of Yale graduates go into finance or consulting instead of pursuing employment more closely connected to their studies and aspirations.
Keegan had been the president of Yale College Democrats. She worked in New Hampshire in the summer of 2008 as one of the youngest paid staffers for the Obama presidential campaign, her parents said Tuesday while looking at a photo of their daughter with the president.
The Keegans spent graduation weekend with their daughter in New Haven, time they said they were grateful for as they prepare for her memorial Saturday at The First Parish in Wayland. They plan to spread her ashes in Cape Cod Bay.
Yale professor and literary critic Harold Bloom said Keegan had become like an adopted granddaughter to him after serving as his research assistant for the past two years. He taught her seminars in Shakespeare and American poetry and called her senior essay about the poet John Keats' influence on author F. Scott Fitzgerald's work "quite publishable."
In August, a musical that Keegan wrote will be staged in New York City as part of The New York International Fringe Festival, fellow 2012 Yale graduate and project collaborator Mark Sonnenblick said.
Called "Independents," the play is about a group of 20-somethings smuggling drugs on a Revolutionary War-era ship while posing as war re-enactors. When the posse's leader disappears, the friends try to become real re-enactors.
Sonnenblick, who wrote the show's lyrics, said the script is about transitioning to adulthood and maintaining community and relationships, themes that embodied much of Keegan's writing.
"These are things Marina didn't necessarily have answers for," Sonnenblick said. "She took on issues she was concerned about and happened to her and her friends."
The Yale graduate said it like this in her last column: "We're in this together, 2012. Let's make something happen to this world."