Thousands of University community members filled the Amphitheatre Thursday for a candlelight vigil in honor of missing second-year College student Hannah Graham.
The event, organized by Second Year Council and Student Council, brought together various student groups to perform some of Graham’s favorite songs, and friends and student leaders addressed the crowd.
“[The vigil is] a demonstration of support for Hannah’s’ family, friends, and for the community,” said Student Council President Jalen Ross, a fourth-year Engineering student. “[Its purpose is] to help each other through a trying time. [Hannah’s disappearance] has raised a lot of questions about safety in Charlottesville.”
Each presenter who spoke introduced themselves by saying to the audience, “I am here for you.”
Second Year Council President Abraham Axler, a College student, spoke of Graham’s interests — recognized by a British flag and a pair of skies on stage, and pink Starburst candies on seats. In his remarks, he offered a description of Hannah’s personality by discussing her Instagram account, and joked about her affinity for avocados.
“It’s as if the collage of our community is missing a paint chip,” Axler said. “We join together tonight to bring Hannah home so that she may continue to paint our community full of color.”
Second Year Council Vice President Lital Firestone, also a College student, performed a call and response presentation of Emily Dickinson’s Poem, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers.”
University President Teresa Sullivan addressed the need for students to ensure each other’s safety.
“We live in a community of trust at U.Va., but we are not invincible as individuals,” she said.
For the audience — comprised of students, administrators, faculty, and members of the Charlottesville community — the vigil served as a symbol of the community’s strength.
“I decided to come because I think it is a great thing to show that no matter what, U.Va. students are willing to come together and support one another, especially in times of need,” fourth-year College student Meklit Adnan said. “Regardless of whatever is going on in our lives we know to stop and come together.”
The event came to an end in a display of communal hope and love as those in attendance put their arms around each other and sang a rendition of “The Good Ole’ Song.”
Dean of Students Allen Groves said he was proud of the student leadership and of the number of people who came to the event.
“Second Year Council and Student Council organized the whole thing, all the logistics, everything, and look at the turnout,” Groves said. “The turnout is remarkable, and I think that tells you a lot about our family that is U.Va.”
Though the tone of the event was somber, in his address Ross said it was also a symbol of the community’s united belief that Graham would be found.
“We are hoping because there is hope,” Ross said. “There is hope in each of the little flames. Like each one of the little flames, each of us is small. But together, we are a great light. There has never been a darkness that defeats light, and this darkness certainly won’t defeat ours.”
Graham's parents John and Sue released a statement following the vigil expressing their gratitude to the University community.
"We found the vigil to be extremely moving and would like to offer our sincere thanks to the students for arranging the event and to the University for enabling our attendance," the Grahams said in the release. "We were comforted by the evident high esteem in which our cherished daughter is held by her many friends at the University of Virginia and beyond.
They also offered a word of caution to students this weekend.
"Lastly, it is now Friday , a week since Hannah’s disappearance," the statement read. "For those students planning to unwind this weekend, please be extra vigilant when you are out and walk with a buddy.
To see a full gallery of Thursday's vigil, click here.
The full video can be seen here.
A community search effort is being held Saturday, organized by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management.