Laron Short returned to her family home in Chickasha Monday night after a five-month trip to Australia ready to tell her friends and family about her new love, a man she met while abroad.
Short, 24, never got the chance.
She died Tuesday when a tornado destroyed her mother's mobile home.
Her death has been “shattering” to the small close-knit college in Chickasha where Short graduated in December, said J.C. Casey, a communications professor at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.
“I loved her very much,” said Casey, who was Short's professor, adviser and friend. “Laron was not like anybody I had ever met before. She knew she wanted to be a journalist and she thought she could change the world.”
The tragedy, Casey said, is that Short was one of the few students she has ever had who might have actually changed the world.
With a burnt-orange Marxist symbol tattooed across her chest and her hair colored pink, she had a fervor for politics and a wit and intellect beyond her 24 years. She forced the world to re-examine its stereotypes, friends said.
“She was so selfless and nurturing, almost to a flaw, because sometimes she'd get kind of walked all over. A lot of people see that as a sign of naivete,” said Jared Minson, 23, who was co-editor of the college paper with Short. “That's what's so crazy. She was anything but naive. She was one of the most knowledgeable people I've ever met.”
One of the highlights of Short's college career was a trip to Washington, D.C., that included sitting in on debates at the Capitol.
“Laron could hardly sit still,” Casey said. “She was like a little kid going to Disney World for the first time and a groupie going to a rock band, all rolled into one, at the thought that she was going to see Nancy Pelosi.”
For Short, Pelosi was the height of achievement for a female in liberal politics, one of her own aspirations.
Casey wrote a column before the presidential election for the school paper that read like a confession of a schoolgirl crush for President Barack
“There's such wit there that you start out and you're dying laughing, and then all of a sudden she's giving you serious stuff,” Casey said.
Heather Jay, who was also a communications major at USAO, said she took all of her writing advice from Short and envied her best friend's style.
Short told Jay she had important news to tell her and they planned to meet up later this week to catch up after five long months apart.
Jay said the big news was about a man Short had met in Australia who had stolen her heart.
“It wasn't surprising to me,” Jay said. “If she wanted to do something she just went for it. She found a way to make it happen.”
Funeral arrangements haven't been made yet as Short's friends are trying to find a way to get here from Australia.
Short's home was destroyed by the tornado, but her mother, who was home with Laron when the storm hit, was not injured, her friends said.
“How do you recuperate from losing everything you've got and then on top of that you lose your only child?” Case asked.