The University Park Undergraduate Association (UPUA) hosted the third annual Penn State Night of Remembrance Thursday evening in front of Old Main. The candlelight vigil ran from 8 p.m. to 9:15 p.m., and paid respect to the lives of 27 students from Penn State campuses across the commonwealth who passed away in the last year.
As the sun began to set, students assembled in front of the Old Main steps to honor these students. Candles were passed out to all in attendance. With somber faces and heavy hearts they all turned to face UPUA President, Katie Jordan and Vice President, Alex Shockley, who led the vigil.
Jordan and Shockley opened the event by both expressing the importance of this ceremony; “remembering those amongst our Penn State community who passed away serves to honor their memories,” Shockley said.
This vigil was special because it was the first time that Penn State students from Commonwealth campuses were commemorated; previous vigils had only honored students from University Park. Opening the event, the Pennharmonics, Penn State University’s premier co-ed a cappella group, performed a heart wrenching song about being gone but never forgotten.
Shockley then invited students to come up to the microphone to share their feelings. “We welcome anyone who would like to speak about any or all of the individuals listed tonight,” he said. “Please feel free to come to the front and speak into the mic whenever you are ready.”
The audience fell silent. Although no one walked towards the mic, those 5 minutes spoke volumes. You could hear a few people sniffling and holding back tears. Some students stared at the ground, while others stared at their unlit candles. Once it seemed clear that no one was going to speak, Shockley announced “We’ll be moving on to lighting the candles. We will light a candle for each of the 27 students.”
Then began a beautiful process: one by one, the fallen names were called and a student went up to light their candle and stand on the Old Main steps, facing the crowd.
The students called:
Starrett Metzler, Karina Nunez-Fabian, Shannon Mathers, Rahman Hassan, Madison Hill, Jedidiah Seckinger, Christina Anthony, Scott Loper, Matthew Kayser, George Samah, Garren Stamp, Byron Markle, Nicolai Tereschak, Hayley McMillen, Matthew Wolfgang, Stephanie Inman, Benjamin Harner, Robert Lane, Sarah Barbale, Andrew Edwards, Jasper Hicks, Lucas Shook, Luke Still, Samuel Kepler, Stephanie Matteo, Timothy Piazza, and Cody Mullen.
Once all the student’s names were called, the students carrying their lit candles went into the crowd to share their flames with others in the crowd. This was the climax of the night. Standing in the dark, shoulder to shoulder, candle lights flickering, the Pennharmonics sang another song that truly captured the moment.
Rather symbolically, it then started to rain. However, no one moved or went to take shelter. Instead, there was an extensive moment of silence for the fallen. Standing there, soaked, and candles lit, Shockley invited all in attendance to close out the ceremony with the Penn State Alma Mater.
The crowd linked elbows, swayed side to side and sang loudly.
For the glory of old State,
For her founders strong and great,
For the future that we wait,
Raise the song, raise the song.
May no act of ours bring shame
To one heart that loves thy name,
May our lives but swell thy fame,
Dear old State, dear old State.
On this rainy night, complete strangers banded together for the simple purpose of honoring the lives of fellow students who were all gone too soon. Today and every day, may the lives of these students always be remembered and celebrated. As they will always be members of the Penn State community.
Photo Credit: Chris Velez | The Underground