Snow blanketed the campus of University of Idaho on Wednesday evening, as students, families, and community members joined together for a vigil remembering four students who were brutally murdered earlier this month.
It’s been more than two weeks since Madison Mogen, Kaylee Goncalves, Xana Kerndole and Ethan Chapin were killed in the early hours of 13 November.
Police still have few clues as to who murdered the students or what inspired such violence, but university officials and families of the victims alike urged the community to remember the joy the slain students brought to each other and the world, and to hold close to family and friends.
“Make sure that you spend as much time as possible with those people because time is precious and it’s something you can’t get back,” Stacy Chapin, the mother of Ethan Chapin, said onstage as she choked up.
She recalled how her son loved country music and spending time on the lake in the family boat.
Earlier in the evening, University of Idaho dean of students Blaine Eckles pointed to a wristband he got at Chapin’s memorial, urging people to “live life like Ethan did,” full of happiness and laughter.
“Tell the fun stories, remember them in the good times,” Mr Eckles said. “Do not let their lives be defined by how they died, but instead remembered for the fun times they had and the joy they spread when they lived.”
Ben Mogen, father of Madison Mogen, shared a touching story about seeing a Mac Miller concert with his daughter.
The two loved seeing live music together, and Maddie was disappointed when the rapper came to town and Ben was unable to score tickets.
Then, on the final night before the show, he won a radio contest and was able to take Maddie and her friends after all on special VIP passes, which included a meet-and-greet with the artist.
“That was the happiest memory I could think of that we shared together,” Mr Mogen said, describing his daughter as a hard working young woman who treated everyone with kindness.
Steve Goncalves, father of the slain Kaylee Goncalves, talked about the dear friendship between his daughter and Mogen, who grew up together and were thrilled to go to university together too.
“In the end they died together, in the same room, in the same bed. It’s a shame, and it hurts, but the beauty of the two always being together comforts us,” he said. “It lets us know they were with their best friends in the whole world.”
“We’re gunna get our justice,” he continued. “We’re gunna figure stuff out. This community deserves that.”
School officials acknowledged the pain and fear in the community, as the killer remains at large.
“We don’t know how long this investigation will take and we don’t know the ‘why’ behind this horrific act, but what we do know is we will all come together,” Dean Eckles said.
“What you are feeling is real,” he added. “The sadness. The confusion. The worry and the anxiety. It’s OK to have those feelings. I have them too.”
The event concluded with a reading of the victims’ names along with a moment of silence, as students held lights and phones up in the air.
A student choir offered a song to those gathered in the university field house, “Earth Song,” by Frank Ticheli.
The lyrics read, “Through darkness and pain and strife/I’ll sing, I’ll be, live, see/ Peace.”