The GW community gathered to celebrate the life of Eric Fatla – a first-year law student who passed away late December – Friday evening in the Jack Morton Auditorium.
Fatla, 26, died after falling down a two-story flight of stairs Christmas Eve while in Chicago visiting his family during winter break. His father, Ed Fatla, found him at the bottom of the stairs at the Union League Club where they were dining, after he exited to go to the restroom.
University President Steven Knapp, Fatla’s parents and a group of friends and classmates attended the memorial – an opportunity they used to reflect on quirks, accomplishments and memories they have of Fatla.
Jonathan Turley, one of Fatla’s professors, said during the service the University feels a deep loss over Fatla’s death.
“Every time I leave the law school, I see the spot where Eric and I would stop and talk, and I miss those spots and I miss Eric. This was a 26-year-old man, and look at the concentric circles of relations that he left,” Turley said.
After graduating from Illinois Wesleyan University, Fatla moved to D.C. and worked for Rep. Jerry Weller, R-Ill., and later for the lobbying and consulting firm, New World Group LLC. Last fall was his first semester at GW.
“It may be hard for the family to see how small a community George Washington is, but I think you’re getting an idea,” Turley said. “We’re a community that has circles. Circles are very important in academics.”
Saul Hernandez shared stories of Fatla’s more endearing, unique qualities, drawing laughter from Fatla’s family and friends as he recalled Fatla’s sense of style and reverence for cooking and fine wines.
“To be quite honest, I didn’t quite know what to make of Eric,” Hernandez said. “He talked about chess and told me about his extensive knowledge of Japanese, and he did all this without irony, as we met at a keg party, after all.”
Hernandez said Fatla was not cocky or abrasive – just impressive.
Before the service, attendees were greeted with a slideshow of photographs of Fatla accompanied by a mix of Bob Dylan melodies. The Promissory Notes, GW Law School’s only a cappella group, performed two songs during the memorial, including Dylan’s “Forever Young.”
“I saw this program was very heavy on Bob Dylan content, so it seems that everyone knew that Bob Dylan was Eric’s favorite musician and likely his favorite person in the world,” Mark Ritacco, one of Fatla’s friends, said.
Ritacco said he had the distinct privilege and honor of taking Fatla to his first Bob Dylan concert, where the artist played “Forever Young.”
“You should have seen him. It was like taking a kid to see Santa Clause,” Ritacco said. “He’ll always be forever young to me, unjaded by the rigors of this town, and the world, but with just so much unaccomplished, and maybe that’s the saddest thing of all.”