Family, teammates and community members gathered Friday in the center of Arts Grounds to plant a tree in honor of Virginia football players Lavel Davis Jr., Devin Chandler and D’Sean Perry, victims of the Nov. 13 shooting. The event, which drew a crowd of about 300 people, had a reception across the street afterwards.
Everyone in attendance was invited to add a shovelful of dirt to the tree, starting with University President Jim Ryan, Director of Athletics Carla Williams and Rector Robert Hardie. The families of the victims went next, followed by current members of the University football team. Other attendees were invited next.
“Devin, Lavel, and D’Sean came into this world to be filled with light and to shine, and shine they did,” Ryan said in his introductory remarks. “That light might be harder to see right now, but let this tree be a persistent and gentle reminder of it.”
The memorial tree is an overcup oak, which is native to the region. It can grow to heights of more than 100 feet and live longer than 400 years. The tree will be planted alongside a bronze plaque commemorating the three lives lost. The planting is part of a broader tradition of planting trees to commemorate those who have shaped the University community.
“It is my hope that this tree, planted with care, with love and with one another will help us to heal,” Ryan said. “That it will help us not to move on, as these students will never be forgotten, but to move forward
The memorial was held ahead of Saturday’s football game against James Madison University — the first home game since the shooting.
Williams said that the words peace, love and joy symbolize the lives of Perry, Davis Jr. and Chandler respectively. She compared the parts of the tree to the legacies of the three men.
“There is a time for everything… for every activity under the heavens, including a time to plant and a time to heal,” Williams said. “I want you all to know that weeping may endure for a night, but joy always comes in the morning.”
Hardie delivered the ceremony’s closing remarks, in which he thanked the University’s health services and Critical Incident Management Team for their work during and after the events of the shooting.
“Our community’s resilience constantly amazes me,” Hardie said. “We continue to move forward while never forgetting.”
The ceremony is the University community’s latest event of remembrance. Saturday’s football game will include a pre-game ceremony to honor the three victims and their families, which will begin at approximately 11:30 a.m..