Community mourns death of Yeardley Love at candlelight vigil
University will award posthumous degree to soon-to-be graduate
The Amphitheater was silent for several minutes as candles flickered in the dark. It was as if the faces behind them, of those who had gathered to commemorate the life of Yeardley Love - and reflect on the bonds of community that were broken as a result of her tragic death - had blended against the dark of the setting sun.
The vigil Wednesday night to honor Love was coming to a close. Students, some in tears, rose silently and returned to their dorms and apartments, privately contemplating the words of the speakers, who urged them to remember Love's contributions to the University and the indignity of her passing.
University President John T. Casteen, III, who spoke first at the event, said the candlelight vigil was "not a forum to examine those charges or the evidence that will eventually make its way to court." But rather, he said, it was a forum to honor Love's accomplishments as someone who "excelled at what she undertook to do in life, and … excelled in what she chose to be."
Love, who was found dead early Monday morning in her 14th Street apartment, "did nothing to deserve to be attacked and beaten, to deserve to suffer the injuries of which we have all read in the police reports, to deserve to die," Casteen told the thousands of students and community members gathered to remember her.
"For that matter," he added, "that no woman beaten, thrown against walls, or in any way abused has ever deserved either to suffer or to die."
Love's body showed signs of visible physical trauma when police arrived at her apartment just after 2 a.m. According to an affidavit obtained by The Daily Progress, Huguely admitted to shaking Love during a physical altercation, allowing her head to strike a wall multiple times. Police arrested Huguely and charged him with first-degree murder just hours later after the incident. Huguely's lawyer called the death "an accident with a tragic outcome" and vowed to fight the charges.
"Yeardley's death is beyond belief," Fourth Year Trustees President Sarah Elaine Hart told the crowd. "And the actions that led to her death are painfully difficult to think about. But for many of us, there has been little else to think about these days."
Many students were in attendance Wednesday to commemorate Love, whose sudden death brought shock and grief to the student body. Casteen addressed the crowd first, followed by Hart, then Student Council President Colin Hood. Performances by the Virginia Belles and Virginia Gentlemen opened and closed the vigil, which dozens of media outlets both nationwide and in Charlottesville came to witness.
Reflection regarding the death of Love, Casteen said, should stir up anger among students that one of their peers was unjustly taken from their ranks. And lessons should be learned, he said, from the violence that brought about the injustice.
"My hope for Yeardley, and for you," he said, "is that her death inspires an anger, a sense of outrage that engenders determination here and wherever Yeardley's name is recognized that no woman, no person in this place, this community, this state, our nation need either fear for her safety or experience violence for any reason."
Coping with the scope of the loss, however, and the ways to move forward after the tragedy will be particularly difficult, fourth-year College student Marissa Nadeau said after the event, particularly considering how incomprehensible the crime remains to many students.
"There is so much sadness and confusion as to how such a tragedy could occur," Nadeau said. "It is so scary to think how similar our life situations were. We were both about to graduate and start new things, but that will no longer happen for Yeardley."
Hart, too, expressed what the loss of a classmate so soon to graduation meant to the community of fourth-year students. Love will be awarded a posthumous diploma in her honor.
"In a few short weeks we will walk the Lawn together during graduation," Hart said. "And there is no doubt that there will be a seat at that ceremony that now cannot possibly be filled."
Finding ways to reconcile such a tragedy will be difficult, Casteen said. But nevertheless, students must stand against this injustice, he said, and through the strengthening of community bonds form a united front against the type of violence and abuse inflicted against Love.
"Tuck away in your soul the knowledge that neither Yeardley Love nor any woman ever attacked has deserved it," Casteen said, "that no victim in the end has to suffer, has to die, but that together we are the protection, that we must act together to protect one another and to see to it that the things we've learned here become and remain true in the world to which we go after this place.
"May God bless Yeardley Love."
-Allie Vandivier contributed to this article