Ross Langdon / Elif Yavuz

September 23, 2013

This morning I slammed down the phone hard and burst into tears when told of Ross Langdon’s death in Kenya at the Nairobi mall. The screams that came out were guttural and intensely grief stricken.

He was a much loved local lad. He was a colleague and friend who went out into the world as an architect doing wondrous things. Yet Ross always returned to his family and cultural roots here on the Tasman Peninsula and we all took immense pride in both his architectural abilities and his very generous, positive, and loving personality. There just was no dark side to Ross that I ever saw in the twenty or so years I knew him.

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I would always bring up Ross as an example of how a young person — growing up in a rural setting — benefited from this closer connection to nature than could be had at the more “elite” urban schools.

He designed  – pro bono —  an aids hospital in Kenya. Being in his early 30′s he had already given a TED talk. In Uganda he designed and supervised a unique eco-village employing only local labour. There is much, much more. For one so relatively young, the list of achievements is long.

Let me just mention this, however: Ross was about to start on a $35 million museum centered around the earliest fossil record of humanoids walking: two adults and one child. Ironic, because equally tragic is that his partner Elif Yavuz and their unborn child (due in two weeks) were also killed in the massacre. When they visited me at Windgrove a year and a half ago, Elif had just completed a PhD at Harvard; last month she was personally visited by Bill Clinton in her role with the [Bill] Clinton Health Access Initiative based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

A week ago I wrote about how talented people needed to move out of their comfort zones and get involved with changing the world before the ongoing “unraveling” tipped into the No-Return stage. For me, and a big reason for today’s grief, is that Ross and Elif symbolized the sort of people doing the Work. They were agents-of-change in the best sense.

Both had dedicated their lives to working for a peaceful world. Both had so much to offer.

Besides a personal loss for myself, this is a major global loss. This cannot be underestimated or glossed over by the political pundits who will label Ross and Elif and their unborn child as unfortunate casualties in the war on terror.

Yes, I have been punched in the stomach. Yes, I have collapsed emotionally. Yes, I am not feeling particularly happy or even “forgiving”.

But there is another Yes. And this is a bigger “yes” that says — in honour of Ross and Elif — I will eventually pick up the pieces and continue on with the sort of work they themselves were so involved in: bringing about change to a tattered world based — not on religious grounds or economic gain — just a pure love for all of humanity and the natural world.

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{ 71 comments }

Jay December 10, 2013 at 2:09 pm

Knew Ross, great human being and a serious loss for a world which seems oblivious to love. Too many questions in my head, why? RIP

Marie October 22, 2013 at 5:12 am

Dear Peter,
I am so sorry for your loss. I did not know Ross and Elif but I live in Nairobi and was incredibly saddened to learn they were among those who lost their lives in such a brutal way. I was also very touched by your tribute. I thought you would want to know that today was a treeplanting ceremony at a beautiful spot in Nairobi’s Karura Forest in honor of the victims, including one for Ross and one for Elif, next to each other. May they rest in peace.

Jenny Faulkner October 17, 2013 at 11:37 am

Dear Peter, I never knew Ross or Elif. I too was saddened to my core to hear of their tragic death. I believe I will always remember them and be inspired and touched by their life. Thanks for sharing about them. Sorry for your more personal loss.

Christopher Benson October 4, 2013 at 6:02 am

I am so sorry for your (and our) loss. This is so heart-breaking, and in my case apparently also brain-breaking when I absent-mindedly and inappropriately determined it was better like this. Neither one of them had to survive knowing of the other’s death. Then a semblance of brain returned long enough for me to realise who had truly absent minds last month in Nairobi, and which actions there were truly inappropriate.

rita tait September 30, 2013 at 5:09 pm

I did not know the couple but my son, an architect in Sydney, tutored him and oversaw his final year project at University. He describes his as ” the best he taught and the nicest guy …” My other son in London knew him when he did major design work on a club that he promotes – Ross then working for 4 years for David Adjee a friend on my architect son who recommended him. Both my boys are very upset and it is obvious that he was an exceptional guy as his partner clearly was. Until now I have never felt such hatred towards the people who do these things but I remind myself that if we go down that road they have won. ( Not sure I have convinced myself but I shall work on it.)

Audrey Widyanata September 30, 2013 at 4:18 pm

Mr. Peter, thank you for sharing this. I didn’t know much about Elif, but she was a friend of my sister when she lived in Jakarta, Indonesia. I was shocked when I heard about her passing.

I know NO words can ease the pain, the grief, the loss, that Elif n Ross families, friends have to face..
All I could say; Thank You Elif, Thank You Ross for all your great works, your kind contribution, your positive efforts to make this world become a better world to others.

I hope their spirit live forever in all of us and hope we all can continue their efforts in our daily life.

martha September 30, 2013 at 2:25 am

Peter – my deepest sympathies. Their senseless deaths are deep loss to their families, their friends and to the world at large. We cannot afford to lose such selfless people who are prepared to give so much to make the world a better place for generations to come.

Liria September 29, 2013 at 1:53 am

This is truly heartbreaking! I dont know them but by reading about them and their wonderful achievements it brought me to tears. They lived to make a differance. Some peolple just exist doing same mundane tasks everyday but Ross and Elif were helping people. This is a tremendous loss. Let their death not be in vain. They are truly an inspiration to all people. May Ross and Elif and their child rest in peace. Truly heartbroken for them.

Pauline, Nijmegen September 28, 2013 at 7:20 am

It’s so sad what has happened. I don’t know them and i can start crying. How would the people feel who are close to this beautiful couple…

My deepest condolences.

Jennifer Lozano September 27, 2013 at 12:23 am

EN HONOR A KENIA
DESDE UN LUGAR LEJANO A OTRO LEJANO LUGAR
PODRIA ENTENDERSE EL AIRE Q SE RESPIRA
PORQUE LO MAS HUMANO
ES EL AMOR QUE INSPIRA
INSPIRA MUNDOS
INSPIRA ALMAS
INSPIRA HOMBRES
INSPIRA ACCIONES
Y AUNQUE ESTE SEA UN GRANO DE ARENA
EN EL DESIERTO DE SAHARA
YO QUIERO GRITAR QUE EL AMOR AUN QUEDA
QUE EL AMOR PUEDE
QUE EL AMOR VENERA
AL QUE POR EL MUERE
AL QUE POR EL HABLA
NI ROSS NI ELIF MORIRAN PORQUE
SU AMOR ENALTECERA
NUESTRO SENTIDO DE VIVIR
DICEN QUE LA OPORTUNIDAD DE LA VIDA
ES SERVIR
ELLOS LO HICIERON, LO HICIERON POR MI, POR TI
POR KENIA, POR EL MUNDO
SE VAN AMANDOSE
ABRAZÁNDOSE
Y CON UNA VIDA EN VIENTRE
LOS QUE LOS MATARON YA ESTAN PERDONADOS
PORQUE EL AMOR SIEMPRE REINARÁ
MÁS ALLÁ DE CUALQUIER PECADO.

CON AMOR

natasha jackson September 26, 2013 at 10:26 pm

Dear Peter,

I have only just heard about Ross, his partner and their unborn child. I worked with Ross at John McAslan + Partners and wanted to pass on my deepest condolences to all who knew and loved him.

He stood out as a young man who was committed to making the world a better place. Focused, dedicated and so very talented, he was warm, friendly, gentle in his manner and always quick to laugh.

My deepest condolences.

Marie Robb September 26, 2013 at 4:00 pm

So sorry to hear of this. And thank you for such a moving tribute to those wonderful young people.
We were sitting by the TV waiting for the bits of news as my daughter Louise was travelling from Mombasa to Nairobi that day. She was in a safer place, but others were not so lucky.
It’s such a shock when these world furies touch people we know and love.

Janine Smith September 25, 2013 at 10:33 pm

Thank you so much for this wonderful tribute. I have met Ross only a few times in Dar es Salaam, and he truly is the person you are explaining him to be. I was always intruiged by the way he was always friendly and how he would treat everyone around him. My condolences to the family and friends of both Ross and Elif.

Temoor ahmad September 25, 2013 at 10:24 pm

Peter,

What a lovely, moving tribute. I worked with Ross for a while when we were at John McAslan + Partners – your comment about Ross not having a dark side never occured to me until I read it. He was a lovely man, full of happiness and optimism and I was very proud to hear of his recent achievements. My sincere condolences to you, his family and his partner’s family for this loss. Incredibly sad news – i cannot imagine what you are all going through.

Emel September 25, 2013 at 5:18 pm

Wonderful words for wonderful people.
Thank you for these comforting, powerful words.
May Elif, Ross and their unborn child rest in peace and power.
Selam
Emel

Lucien Zell September 25, 2013 at 11:55 am

Through fragilities we reach one another.
Leonardo’s definition of an arch:
“Two weaknesses that fall together to become a strength.”
If we never fell, those meant to catch us
Might never discover their power.
Around our body-islands, identity’s ocean swirls,
Wave upon wave of infinite information
Tugged into fury by our negligence.
Death is not a drought of moment- but a flood of eternity.

Tahira Hayes September 25, 2013 at 5:51 am

What a great tribute. Many comforting thoughts from the east coast of the U.S.

SusieQ September 25, 2013 at 4:25 am

What a horrible, horrible and senseless loss to the world for the deaths of so many innocent people. I am sad for the family & friends of these two apparently loving, caring, kind, enormously intelligent, and compassionate people and their unborn child. May they rest in peace, along with all of those who died at this unfathomable shooting.

Theresa H Hall September 25, 2013 at 2:59 am

Dear Peter,

Sharing your tribute about your friends and their unborn child is important. People from around the world need to understand, that we must seek peaceful solutions to bring about the end the feelings of hated throughout our world. This little family offered the world their very best, yet they were tragically taken, their lives snuffed out in an instant. Sadly, we will never know what else they would have created.

I have been adding my prayers along with others, who only want to live harmoniously together. I add my sorrow and deepest sympathy for all who were lost, hoping these senseless acts of violence will end.

Please keep telling their story so it can go on and on. You write beautifully. Many blessings.

Tracy September 25, 2013 at 2:58 am

Thank you for your blog–a beautiful tribute. I did not know them, but as a member of the world community I have to say it is such a terrible loss for all of us. Who knows what more good they (and their unborn child) would have most certainly done. It is a shared loss to us all. May their lives serve as inspiration to everyone, to pick up where they left off, and continue in our own way–to impact the world and make it a better place and not let the monsters and hate defeat us. Good will conquer evil. Rest in peace sweet souls!

Lori Barr September 25, 2013 at 2:33 am

I wish I would have had the honor of knowing your dear friends. I am so sorry for your loss and for the global loss we feel when the best of the best are taken from us too soon. May they rest in peace.

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