Students commemorate life of Harsha Maddula during vigil

Kaitlin Svabek/Daily senior staffer

University chaplain Timothy Stevens addresses the students and faculty in attendance at the vigil that was previously planned in solidarity with Maddula's family. The vigil was planned before the press conference was announced.

Paulina Firozi, Campus Editor
September 28, 2012 •

Hundreds of students gathered around The Rock late Thursday night after hearing the news of Harsha Maddula's death.

The gathering was originally planned by residents of the Public Affairs Residential College as a vigil for the then-missing McCormick sophomore before NU spokesman Al Cubbage announced Maddula's body had been recovered from Wilmette Harbor.

During the vigil, students spoke about knowing Maddula as a classmate and as a friend. Some told stories of sharing meals after classes, while others recounted what they would no longer be able to share with one of the members of the NU community.

Zueber Juma, a fellow McCormick sophomore, remembered his friend and conversations they shared.

"We liked talking about life aspirations, community," he said.

Juma said he visited Millennium Park with Maddula when Maddula posed for a photo — an image that has since been plastered on fliers around Evanston and published by newspapers across the country.

"Harsha," he continued. "If you're listening, I love you, man, and hopefully I'll see you soon."

Weinberg freshman Brady Edwards recalled meeting Maddula on one of his first nights at NU, when residents of PARC broke into groups to get to know each other.

"My group was led by Harsha," he said. "We developed a saying that PARC chose us. From that night until now I know why PARC chose us. Because we've become such a family … But now I don't know him as part of that family. I'm just sad that I can't get to know him like all the other guys did."

Edwards noted that although he didn't know Maddula well, he decided to write a message on the banner that was set out on the Norris University Center ground floor Thursday morning.

Burgwell Howard, assistant vice president of student engagement, asked people gathered at the vigil to take time during the week to add messages to the banner.

"I encourage people over the next couple of days, to stop over there to read the messages from people who knew him well and to add your own thoughts," he said. "It's our intent to allow the community to express itself and, at an appropriate time, share those thoughts with Harsha's family to know how this community viewed him, loved him and cared about him and had hopes and dreams for him."

University chaplain Timothy Stevens reminded students of the importance of unity in times of mourning.

Earlier Thursday, more than 300 students convened outside of Seabury Hall to volunteer for search efforts.

For students like Weinberg sophomore Aileen Comer, the atmosphere was solemn as search parties set out six days since Maddula was last seen.

"It's weird being here," she said. "I just met (Maddula's) cousin. And I just came from SPAC. It's like coming into the real world from your fake world."

At the vigil Thursday evening, before observing a moment of silence, Stevens asked students to continue to take care of one another and to console each other during these trying times.

"As a community, this is a great loss and we're all affected in many different ways, whether we knew Harsha well or we didn't know him very well at all," he said. "We're all deeply affected. It's good to be together to show each other support and concern. That's what a community does and that's what Northwestern does."

After the moment of silence, members of the a capella group, Brown Sugar, sang "Halo" by Beyonce to honor Maddula. Following the gathering, students remained outside of Harris Hall to light candles and paint The Rock in remembrance.

Associated Student Government is planning a memorial ceremony for Friday.

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