Vigil commemorates laughter, life of Alyssa Weaver
November 30, 2012
Amid the tears and grief, candles shone upon the smiles of hundreds of students touched by Alyssa Weaver.
The Northwestern community gathered at The Rock on Thursday evening to commemorate the life of the Weinberg junior who took her life while abroad in London last week. The vigil was hosted by Chi Omega, the Cultural and Community Studies Residential College, the Boxing Club and the Brady Scholars Program.
“All I find are memories of her laugh," said Mallorie Barber, Weaver’s Chi O sister and a Communication junior. "Her awkward giggle that was somehow deep and high-pitched, her huge smile that started with a tug in the corner of her mouth and spread across her lips as it lit up a room.”
This laughter recurred throughout the memories shared by Weaver's friends and peers from various organizations. McCormick junior Abby Christman, a Chi O sister who lived with Weaver in CCS, remembered in bittersweet tears the way Weaver purposely “crunched” on the leaves as they walked from their dorm to the dining hall, laughing.
“Then everyone else started laughing too because her laugh was so infectious," she added.
SESP junior Erica Rodriguez also lived in CCS and was on the boxing team with Weaver. Rodriguez talked about Weaver’s passion for CCS. Rodriguez said CCS typically won the spirit award at the annual homecoming parade, and when they were upset by the Ayers College of Commerce and Industry last year, Weaver would not accept the loss. Instead, she went to the other residential college’s celebratory bonfire on the Lakefill and stole the trophy.
“Turns out there are only so many places you can run on the Lakefill, and they ultimately caught up to us,” she said with a laugh. “CCI walked away with their trophy, and Alyssa and I walked away with a lot of new friends.”
Rodriguez also remembered how Weaver convinced her to trek to boxing practice despite the “Snowpocalypse” outside their freshman year.
“We didn’t know if we were walking on roads or sidewalks,” she said. “That was life with Alyssa. You never knew where you were going to end up, but you knew it was going to be an adventure along the way.”
Rodriguez then asked the audience to light candles in remembrance of Weaver. The crowd was then led in a Jewish prayer and sang a Chi O song called “Shades.”
Following the candle lighting, the podium was opened to anyone who wanted to speak about Weaver. At one candlelit chapter dinner, Weaver entertained the entire sorority when she accidentally set a bread basket on fire, Weinberg senior Holly Nwangwa remembered.
“Every memory any of us have here starts and ends with that lovely laugh of hers,” she said. “Whenever throughout this trying week me or my sisters have smiled, I know that was her throughout all of us.”
Professors Laurie Zoloth and Cristina Traina encouraged the attendees to strive to emulate Weaver as a source of support for one another.
“We’re all so much more aware now that someone with an infectious laugh now who’s given us the most enjoyable funny moments of our memories can also have deep dark places that she is afraid to share with us,” Traina said.
Her message echoed University President Morton Schapiro’s remarks at the beginning of the vigil about how the University could learn from Weaver’s death. Schapiro quoted a clergyman friend of his who said, "the best way to honor memory is to learn and to live fully."
"I was lying in bed last night thinking about what does that mean in the context of such a tragic, horrific loss of a beautiful young women," he said. "And I think the learning is to learn as an institution how we can be a safer, more inclusive, more welcoming community."
A formal service will be held in Weaver’s memory early next year. Following the remarks, everyone was invited to write a memory on The Rock, make a donation in Weaver’s memory to a charity, which will be determined in the future, or add a note to a book for Weaver’s family, who were not at Thursday’s vigil.
“As I look around at everyone gathered here tonight, I realize she didn’t really do a good job of making friends,” Rodriguez said. “Everywhere she went, every group she became a part of, she seemed to make a family. I see a lot of families out here today.”