Hiaasen Keeps Legacy Alive

Madelena Lapinski, Staff Writer

When the unimaginable occurs, like the sudden loss of a loved one, there is no manual or guide that teaches one how to grieve or heal. Mrs. Hiaasen, an English teacher here at Dulaney High, was confronted with an unexpected tragedy when her husband, Rob Hiaasen, fell victim to gun violence on June 28th, 2018, at The Capital Gazette.  That afternoon, convicted gunman Jarrod Ramos stormed through the doors of The Capital Gazette and killed 5 employees. Thankfully, a few people collaborated to keep Mr. Hiaasen’s work and spirit alive. 

Mr. Hiaasen was a gifted journalist and author who wrote and edited for The Capital Gazette and The Baltimore Sun. Before his death, Mr. Hiaasen employed his humorous writing style in columns about unusual or funny topics.

“He enjoyed funny and quirky.” Mrs. Hiaasen said, “He was the master of specific details that are used sparingly, but so precisely that you get exactly the picture, and exactly the emotion.” 

 Mr. Hiassen’s quirky columns  were gathered and published posthumously in a collection called ‘Love Punch,” along with his novella, “Float Plan.” The book follows the life of an algebra teacher, Will Larkin, who has no permanent classroom in his school. Mr. Hiaasen created Will Larkin in the image of Mrs. Hiaasen, who was a ‘floater’ during her first year at Dulaney. 

“I had to push one of those carts down the hall, and on the third floor there was no air conditioning. I hated it and I would always tell him stories about it, so he created this character who’s a math teacher.” Hiaasen said.

The Apprentice House Press program at Loyola University worked closely with Mrs. Hiaasen to publish “Float Plan.” Mrs. Hiaasen used the proceeds to support a cause that is now more important to her than ever: creating a safer environment by informing people of preventative actions that can be taken against gun violence. An organization that manages gun violence is the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, located in Washington DC.

“They really are instrumental in doing studies that get at what works and what doesn’t. They work closely with an outfit at Johns Hopkins University.” Hiaasen said. 

The Coalition encourages people to report loved ones that they know own guns for violent behavior. Legal measures can be taken to confiscate their firearms and prevent future attacks. Mrs. Hiaasen was pleased with the opportunity to keep her husband’s legacy alive and support a cause that has become a sudden, but significant aspect of her life and identity.

“It’s another layer of who I am. I didn’t choose it, but that’s okay.” Hiaasen said. 

She never suspected that the major shootings she heard about in the news, like the tragedy in Las Vegas in 2017, could be so real and personal. 

“I think everybody should be aware; you think it’s not going to happen to you, or anybody you know, but the truth is that this is a very dangerous country because of what we permit with guns,” Hiaasen said.

Although she doesn’t believe every gun should be confiscated, Mrs. Hiaasen encourages people to be more open to conversations about gun violence, because anyone could become a victim. 

Looking forward, Mrs. Hiaasen anticipates that she will continue to contribute to her husband’s story through writing and speaking, to keep him and his light-hearted and amicable spirit alive.