Troy University is trying to move forward while remembering and honoring four lives lost -- an athlete, an international student and two women who wanted to make a difference through social work.
A candlelight vigil was held Wednesday night for the fallen students who died in unrelated off-campus incidents over the holiday break. Family members of the deceased students attended the service, surrounded by students, faculty and staff.
"Stuff like this is not going to get it out of your system but it's going to give everybody a chance to let it sink in and let everybody know that this is real and stuff like this can happen any day," said Troy student Vincent Randall.
Students filled the campus quad, lighting candles in memory of Kimberle Johnson, a junior Social Work major from Montgomery, who died from gunshot wounds on Dec. 28 in a Montgomery nightclub that left two others dead and several more injured.
Also remembered during the ceremony: Kristen Fuller, a freshman social work major who was shot and killed on New Year's Day in Crenshaw County; football star Jadarius Garner who was found dead on a highway near his hometown in Mississippi and Haijiao Sun who died in a Florida car crash several days after he graduated.
Faculty member Joe McCall spoke to the crowd during the vigil encouraging students to embrace the pain they're feeling and "use it as fuel" for their own journeys.
"Death reminds us how precious life is and how much are friends and students matter to us. They had hope and dreams we are now left only to imagine," McCall said. "Now that your friends are gone, your lives perhaps become a bit more focused on how you can become the gifts they gave to all of us, the gifts you know in your heart they would have carried into their future if their time had not run out so prematurely."
The dean and other faculty members encouraged students to "remember the lives lived, not the lives lost" and to lean on one another for support during this difficult time. The university is also providing counseling to those who need it.
"Whether you knew these students or not, these students made an impact while they were here in many different facets of student life. There's a loss definitely and it's time for us to remember them but also at the same time, build back as a Trojan family," said Cody Farrill, president of Troy's Student Government Association.
"They were all from different communities, different walks of life, even different nations and the circumstances surrounding their losses indeed were different but they were all Trojans and we celebrate their lives as Trojans and mourn their loss as Trojans," added university chancellor, Dr. Jack Hawkins Jr.
As for Kimberly Johnson and Kristen Fuller -- the two students killed in separate shootings --suspects have been arrested in both cases. No other details about Jadarius Garner's death have been released. He was found dead after being struck by a car on U.S. Highway 61 in Bolivar County, MS. Haijio Sun died on Dec. 21, due to complications from an automobile accident that happened on Dec. 14 near Gainesville, FL.
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