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Candlelight Vigil Lights Marsh Plaza

Emotional service brings BU community together

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Some came alone, most arrived with friends. Some wore ties and blazers, but most were dressed in T-shirts, shorts, and flip-flops. They came, under a cloudless spring evening sky, to mourn the loss of three students killed in a car accident in New Zealand early Saturday morning, New Zealand time. Daniela Lekhno (SMG’13), Roch Jauberty (CAS’14), and Austin Brashears (ENG’13) were adventurous friends who were seeking the beauty of Tongariro Crossing, famous as the setting for a scene in the film Lord of the Rings, when the van they were traveling in rolled over. Four other students who were in the Auckland study abroad program and one from the Sydney, Australia, program were injured. One remains in critical condition.

As strains of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings drifted across Marsh Plaza, students, administrators, and staff embraced one another and wept, small knots of grief everywhere one looked. The crowd of approximately 200 bowed their heads in remembrance.

President Robert A. Brown, addressing the crowd, said the three students killed had been “alive with hopes and dreams. We have lost young spirits so early in their quests.” Brown asked mourners to remember the families of the three students killed, noting that for them, “nothing will ever be as it was.”

Jean Morrison, University provost and chief academic officer, reminded mourners that “it is in times such as these, when we face inexplicable tragedy, that the depth of the bonds that we share as a community—the Boston University community—are both revealed and reinforced.”

The student-organized vigil was the brainchild of Katie Matthews (SED’12), a friend of Brashears’. The two worked together as student advisors during Orientation last summer. Matthews says the idea of organizing the vigil came after looking at Brashears’ Facebook page. “I saw all these loving expressions from his family and friends, and I wanted to do something,” she said. “I couldn’t fix this situation, but at 3 a.m. Saturday morning, I created a Facebook event. I thought maybe 20 or so students would show up.” As scores began arriving for the vigil, Matthews shook her head in disbelief.

Speaking at the evening vigil, Matthews, who will graduate next week, told those assembled on the plaza that “if there’s anything I’ve learned in four years at BU, it’s that communities must support each other. We must come together to heal.”

At one of several emotional moments in the service, Tori Pinheiro (CAS’13) remembered the first time she met the man who would become her boyfriend, Austin Brashears. He was, she said, “the first boy I saw at BU—a tall, swaggering person.” When she asked about the scar on his face, he told her that a shark had bitten him while he was surfing. He later admitted to her that he’d gotten the scar after his surfboard hit him in the face.

Choking back tears, Pinheiro read from a letter she’d written to Brashears after learning of his death. “You were the love of my life. You made me so happy. We opened the doors of the world for each other.”

The two other students killed in New Zealand were also recalled during the vigil. Julie Hirsch (CAS’12), who became friends with Daniela Lekhno when she joined the Alpha Delta Pi sorority, remembered her friend as “so sweet, and so kind, and so loving.” Blake Wrobbel (ENG’13) told mourners that his friend Roch Jauberty “lived the way he wanted to live—by his standards. He was living his dream.”

After the speakers finished, Brother Larry Whitney (STH’08,’11), chaplain for community life at Marsh Chapel, asked for a moment of silence. Muffled sobs could be heard as the crowd lit candles, the plaza suddenly aglow in the flickering light.

A University-wide memorial service for Daniela Lekhno, Roch Jauberty, and Austin Brashears will be held at a future date. BU Today will publish details when they become available.

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john o'rourke, editor, bu today
John O’Rourke

John O’Rourke can be reached at orourkej@bu.edu.

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