Aubrey Akers / Sun Contributor

Students attend a vigil for Anthony Nazaire and Darryl Wu '18 on Ho Plaza on Thursday afternoon.

September 1, 2016

At Vigil, Cornellians, Ithacans Struggle to ‘Make Sense’ of Recent Campus Deaths

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Approximately 100 Cornellians gathered on Ho Plaza Thursday afternoon to celebrate and remember the lives of Darryl Wu ’18 and Ithaca College student Anthony Nazaire, both of whom died this week.

Many attendees expressed their hope that the event would help them make sense of the two tragedies.

“Remembrance is about bringing the past into the present with new meaning,” said Kenneth Clarke, director of Cornell United Religious Work, at the vigil. “Because Anthony and Darryl have transitioned from our present, the meaning of their lives is now different. Regardless of if you knew either of them, we are all directly or indirectly affected by their unexpected transition.”

Students at Thursday's vigil expressed concerns about safety on Cornell's campus.

(Aubrey Akers / Sun Contributor)

Students at Thursday’s vigil expressed concerns about safety on Cornell’s campus.

Also in attendance was Prof. Tom Ruttledge, chemistry and chemical biology, who taught Wu in two upper-level chemistry courses and remembered him as a “kind, gentle young man that would give up his talent to other students.”

“[The vigil was important] for people to come together and know that there are other people feeling the same way,” Ruttledge said. “I can’t make sense of this. I certainly don’t have anywhere near the answers why young people with so much more potential die.”

Although Wu and Nazaire’s deaths have rocked the campus, Clarke said he was comforted by the community’s unity in the incidents’ aftermath.

“It’s been a sad and unfortunate set of circumstances for this to happen at any time of the year and it’s impacted the beginning of our fall semester here,” he said. “It is also a time in which it’s been wonderful to see people from both [Cornell and Ithaca College] communities respond.”

Because the stabbing took place on frequently traveled stretch of campus — in front of Olin Hall — many students have expressed concern about safety at Cornell. At the vigil, Clarke stressed that recent events have “jarred the community” because they happened “where you least expect it.”

“Safety is always a relative sort of reality and it reinforces the fact that tragedy can occur at any time,” he said. “[The stabbing] has had its impact on a number of students who come to Cornell because they felt that they would experience relative safety here.”

Other students said that they were generally pleased with how the University has handled both cases so far, adding that they are confident student safety is a prominent priority.

“Overall, this campus is definitely a safe place,” said Val, a graduate student who declined to give her last name. “I think there are a lot of systems in place to ensure that. I am very confident in Cornell and the administration’s ability to keep us safe.”

Despite the tragedies that have occurred so close to the start of the school year, Clarke said he was optimistic about the community’s ability to honor the memory of both victims as it returns to patterns of normalcy.

“It’s been very important to come together,” he said. “This is what communities do when tragedies occur.”