Though I’ve never met Nancy Kerrigan, I felt as if I knew her when I heard the terrible news this week of the death of her father and arrest of her brother. Another bizarre and violent twist in a life that has had more than its share. Her family asks for privacy regarding this death. I have nothing to add beyond the sad facts already known. But aside from expressing sympathy, I did want to say a few words about ‘my’ Nancy.
As I can testify to firsthand– having written librettos for both a chamber opera and rock opera about Nancy’s skating scandal, both shows headed for new productions this year– the fascination with Nancy Kerrigan’s story lives on. While I focus more on Tonya in the plays, it was Nancy’s plight that first captured me in 1994.
Nancy came from Stoneham, a town near ours in Massachusetts, and I believe I once glimpsed Nancy on the Minuteman Bike Trail in Arlington, MA: an auburn-haired vision on rollarblades. I remember kneeling by the radio speakers in our home listening breathlessly from Lillehammer as Nancy Kerrigan, under unimaginable pressure, skated her nearly flawless nearly gold-medal performance.
Nancy’s grace and grit captured everyone’s attention and infuriated some. Many folks have told me over the last few years how they couldn’t sympathize with the reserved and disciplined Nancy. Many believed mistakenly that Nancy came from money, when really her blue-collar family double-mortgaged their home to pay for Nancy’s skate lessons.
There seems to be an outpouring of sympathy this week. Maybe that same strength Nancy found during her knee-attack ordeal will carry her through this tragedy. And no matter what, some of us will not be able to stop watching.
(photos: people.com, commons.wikimedia.or, womens’history.org)