Binghamton University
Tropical Forest Initiative
July, 2011

Just shy of 21, Zoe was a beautiful and exceptional individual going into her senior year of college, double majoring in biology and painting. She was a high honors student, who for years had been a scholar athlete, pianist and artist. Our Zoe never came home from a one-month study abroad program through Binghamton University and the Tropical Forestry Initiative (TFI) in Costa Rica.

Two weeks into the program, I was visited by two State Troopers delivering the news that she died in a car crash the previous night before. Her professor had been driving a van of students and lost control.  Their van tumbled down a ravine and landed in a river upside down – my daughter was the only one who didn’t survive.

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder complete with panic attacks, flashbacks, intrusive thoughts, nightmares, will plague our family for some time. The grief will be with us forever. Being left with a feeling of powerlessness is a natural response to loss, but I have decided to direct that energy toward making changes that can help others. As a result, I have recently joined the Board of Advisors of the ClearCause Foundation.

ClearCause is attempting to bring more awareness to the problem of schools abdicating responsibility on study abroad programs. I hope that together our efforts to create a mandate for more transparency and regulations can help to save the lives of some future travelers.

Noelle Damon, bereaved mother of my beautiful and multi-talented 20 year old daughter, Zoe. (Bless you!)