Around 100 students gathered outside of the McCormick Road dorms Sunday evening for a remembrance vigil in honor of Nicholas Palatt, a first-year Engineering student who passed away Jan. 31. The ceremony included remarks from first-year College student Basak Gafoor, who was Palatt’s roommate, and First Year Council President Jared Rooker.
The evening’s event focused on Palatt’s impact on the University community. Rooker opened the service by reminding attendees of the support and love the first-year class has given to one another and encouraged students to appreciate the gift of life.
“Cherish life with the people you love,” Rooker said. “Everyone's together and going through it. We’re a family.”
Rooker’s sentiments echoed similar themes to those expressed by FYC Vice President Anisa Mohamed, who extended the invitation to the entire first-year class to attend the vigil.
“Life is as precious as it is fleeting,” Mohamed wrote. “Please let the people who are close to you know how much they mean to you.”
Gafoor spoke after Rooker’s remarks, sharing his memories of Palatt with attendees. To Gafoor, Palatt was more than his roommate — the two had been best friends since sixth grade.
Gafoor recounted Palatt’s kindness by sharing a story about working together at Dunkin’ Donuts. At the end of his shift, Palatt would take leftover doughnuts and give them to the local fire department or police station, or deliver them to high school events.
“He was just really caring and didn't want to waste,” Gafoor said. “I like this story because it brings some of that joy to people in our high school, in our community. So that's why I wanted to tell people this — in memory of Nick.”
Throughout the healing process, FYC and Gafoor have emphasized the sense of community and the strength of the “first-year family,” as some in attendance did not know Palatt personally but attended to lend support to those who did.
“Everyone here at U.Va., despite all of our differences, we all have such commonality between us,” Gafoor said. “We all go through the hardships that life throws at us every day… Regardless of whether you knew Nick or not, you knew a part of him, in that he was a U.Va. student — you know what that means, as a person.”
Rooker found the event to be an opportunity for students to come together to grieve for a lost friend.
“As I looked out, I saw a lot of people getting emotional in the crowd,” Rooker said. “It shows a lot of people cared. We’re all family members and it shows Nick was present in our community.”
Going forward, Gafoor plans on honoring his friend by emphasizing little moments such as smiling in the hallway or sharing desserts — actions that defined Palatt’s life.
“Give people a bit of joy in their lives and do good for the community,” Gafoor said. “Engage in some of the some of the things that made Nick special, honor his memory and make sure that, even if he's not with us anymore, his impact is still with us and his presence is still there.”