Northwestern community gathers in memory of Harsha Maddula

Hundreds+of+Northwestern+students+bow+their+heads+while+attending+a+community+vigil+for+Harsha+Maddula+on+Deering+Meadow.+University+President+Morton+Schapiro+called+Maddula%27s+death+%22so+devastating.%22+
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Northwestern community gathers in memory of Harsha Maddula

Hundreds of Northwestern students bow their heads while attending a community vigil for Harsha Maddula on Deering Meadow. University President Morton Schapiro called Maddula's death

Hundreds of Northwestern students bow their heads while attending a community vigil for Harsha Maddula on Deering Meadow. University President Morton Schapiro called Maddula's death "so devastating."

Rafi Letzter/Daily senior staffer

Hundreds of Northwestern students bow their heads while attending a community vigil for Harsha Maddula on Deering Meadow. University President Morton Schapiro called Maddula's death "so devastating."

Rafi Letzter/Daily senior staffer

Rafi Letzter/Daily senior staffer

Hundreds of Northwestern students bow their heads while attending a community vigil for Harsha Maddula on Deering Meadow. University President Morton Schapiro called Maddula's death "so devastating."

Paulina Firozi, Campus Editor

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For hundreds of Northwestern students, Friday was a night to remember the life of Harsha Maddula, as they gathered on Deering Meadow for a commemoration service.

University President Morton Schapiro said he had difficulty finding the right things to say during this somber start to the new year.

“Every year when the academic year begins, I hope, indeed I pray, for the safety and health and well being of our students,” Schapiro said. “And to have something go so tragically, so horrifically wrong … is so devastating.”

Maddula’s body was found Thursday in Wilmette Harbor. The McCormick sophomore had been missing since the previous Saturday morning, after he left an off-campus party.

Schapiro said while he did not personally know Maddula, he knew from speaking to family that he “couldn’t think of a more perfect exemplar of what Northwestern community is all about.”

“It’s just extraordinary,” Schapiro added. “We should all be so blessed to be surrounded by so many people who love us and support us and never give up on us. It’s truly inspiring.”

Kumar Rachuri, one of Maddula’s cousins, thanked those gathered as well as the people who helped in the search for Maddula throughout the week. He said while he was a part of Maddula’s family, Maddula also had a family within NU.

Rachuri said the investigation was still ongoing and urged people to continue to come forward with information that may answer unresolved questions and bring closure to the family.

“Harsha loved Northwestern University,” he said, “and from tonight we can see how much Northwestern University loved him, from this gathering.”

Associated Student Government President Victor Shao, who was a part of organizing the gathering, praised students for coming together and showing the strength of community support.

He noted that while all NU students have different backgrounds and perspectives, they were able to come together on a common ground and recognize “the fragility of life.”

“Northwestern has and always will be a resilient community,” he said. “The support from the student body including that of over 600 student volunteers is a testament to the deep compassion that Northwestern students feel for each other.”

Shao reminded students of resources on campus available to those in need of assistance during difficult times. He cited NU’s Counseling and Psychological Services, the Women’s Center as a few examples.

“If you are struggling, know that you are not alone,” he said. “The best thing that you can do, the most productive reaction, is to come together and support each other. Take care of yourself, take care of each other, take care of Northwestern.”

Associate University Chaplain Tahera Ahmed acknowledged that many students embraced the NU community soon after arriving on campus and admired them for worrying more about finding Harsha when many see the start of the year as time for partying or changing class schedules.

She introduced students who would lead those in attendance in Hindu, Christian, Baha’i, Jewish and Islamic prayers, after which those standing on Deering Meadow observed a moment of silence in memory of Maddula.

The a cappella group Brown Sugar sang a fusion of Beyonce’s “Halo” and the Arabic “Shukran Allah.” They wore white, which is a traditional Hindu symbol for grieving.

Nikhil Bhagwat, one of the co-presidents of the South Asian Student Alliance, reminded students that they must learn a lesson of unity from recent experiences.

“I wish I had taken the time to get to know him better, that I had stopped to talk to him instead of passing and nodding when I saw him on Sheridan,” he said. “But I don’t have that opportunity, none of us do. But we still do with every other Wildcat.”

The president of the Public Affairs Residential College, Linzy Wagner, was one of Maddula’s close friends and spoke of the way he united people within PARC and left a positive impact that will not soon be forgotten.

Some students who gathered expressed that the evening left them moved and emotional.

“I’ve been here for four years and I’ve never felt the loss that I felt when this whole experience was happening,” Weinberg senior Amalia Namath said. “I came out here because I was a part of the search party, I went to The Rock last night and I thought this was a wonderful way of showing how much we appreciated Harsha and all he gave to Northwestern.”

Communication junior Meg Delaney noted that it was important to her to come to the memorial not just for herself but for all people who were affected by the loss of a fellow student.

“I didn’t know Harsha personally but I know people that did and I came to support them and support the community and family,” she said.

ASG Vice President Brad Stewart touched on the importance of supporting one another in difficult times.

“Tonight is an opportunity for introspection,” he said. “To search for truth and meaning in a world that often seems cruel when we are faced with adversity. Tonight is an opportunity to remember, to reflect and to find comfort in our Northwestern family. We can never be as strong individually as we can collectively.”

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