TSG holds candlelight vigil for deceased students

Samuel Collington, Katherine Kelemen, Matthew Melendez, James Peterman and April Rochester were memorialized.

Haweh Kwaidah, a junior biology major, sings “Imagine” by John Lennon to the crowd at the Bell Tower during the candlelight vigil on Dec. 6. | NOEL CHACKO / THE TEMPLE NEWS

As band members played “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” students, family, friends and community members gathered around the Bell Tower holding candles to honor those students whose lives were lost this year. 

Last night, Temple Student Government hosted a candlelight vigil at The Bell Tower, memorializing the lives of students Samuel Collington, Katherine Kelemen, Matthew Melendez, Jimmy Peterman and April Rochester, who died this year. 

Billy Boyer felt it was important to bring not just the Temple University community together, but everyone in the surrounding areas, to honor the students’ lives and give individuals the opportunity to properly grieve and mourn together, he said. 

“They were really great students and their absences have been really felt around campus,” said Boyer, a senior adult and organizational development major and chief of staff at TSG. 

The vigil started at 6 p.m. with opening remarks by Bradley Smutek, a senior history major and president of TSG. 

“As seen tonight, when faced with tragedy, our community stands united,” Smutek said. “I hope tonight’s event can provide some solace to everybody affected.” 

Following Smutek’s remarks, Father Shaun Mahoney from the Newman Center gave an invocation. Mahoney read the names of the five students who died and spoke about the importance of grieving together and the lessons that can be learned from death.

“From death, we come to appreciate the value of a life,” Mahoney said. 

Kimmika Williams-Witherspoon, a theater, film and media arts professor, read a poem she wrote about mortality, called “For the Time Being.” The poem reflected on how brief life can be and the nature of death. 

After Williams-Witherspoon, Kyle Osborne, a political science and communications and social influence double major and TSG’s director of pride and traditions, read the names of the deceased students with a moment of silence between each name. 

He read a statement from Kelemen’s roommates about her love of nature and described her as a “kind, caring, beautiful soul.” 

Following the moments of silence was a speech from Collington’s cousin, Shane Collington. 

Shane Collington thanked TSG for hosting the vigil and offered condolences to the families of the other deceased students before reflecting on all of his memories with Samuel Collington. 

“Sam took pride in what he studied and stood for,” Shane Collington said. “He spent all of his free time raising awareness about the things that mattered most to him. The times I was able to see him this year, he was always able to light up every room he walked into.” 

Shane Collington concluded his speech by reading “How Do We Go On” a poem by writer John Mark Green about grief and healing.  

Shane Collington’s speech was followed by Haweh Kwaidah, a junior biology major, who sang “Imagine” by John Lennon. 

Kameryn Moore, a senior public relations and media studies and production major and engagement at TSG, then recited a poem, “When Tomorrow Starts without Me,” by Erica Shea Liupaeter, which reflects on death and grief from the perspective of the dead. 

Quaiser Abdullah and Chris Owens from Interfaith Philadelphia, a collaboration between religious leaders from different faiths to promote diversity, concluded the vigil, speaking on the importance of the community coming together, sharing memories and supporting each other. 

“The stories that you hear tonight matter, sharing them together matters, remembering and being in these moments together matter,” Owens said.

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