By Analeigh Hughes
Candles were lit, memories were shared and a few tears were even shed at a memorial service March 5.
Students gathered on McKeldin Mall to honor the life of the willow oak tree that fell March 2 during the high winds. The 80-year-old stump, which is located across from Marie Mount and Woods halls, was surrounded by candles and had liquid fertilizer poured on it by people paying their respects.
Junior Dyani Frye started organizing the vigil the day the tree fell. Although there were many jokes about the fallen tree on social media, the plant science major and soil science minor was serious in her efforts to memorialize the fallen tree.
“Trees are too important to die in vain. They really deserve our acknowledgment and that’s my whole thing because we have to look at plants and remember that they’re there, and this is a really cool way to honor a tree’s spirit.”
The Facebook event had over one thousand students interested in attending. Although there were less than 50 attendees, Frye did not expect her event to spread across campus.
“I was just expecting my weird plant friends to come and then a bunch of people wanted to come,” she said.
Victoria Murphy was not sure what the tone of the vigil would be.
“A lot of the posts in the Facebook group were kinda like, ‘I’m in therapy about it I can’t make it,” she said.
However, she did not mind that the event had a serious tone.
“It’s nice like you don’t realize how important and how long that it’s been on our campus.”
Esther Yun came to the memorial to “honor the fallen tree.” She said she loves trees and has a deep connection to them. Before the tree fell, she said she would notice it on McKeldin because she enjoys looking at the trees. Although she said she was not shocked that a tree fell over during the wind storm, she was upset that a tree fell and could have killed someone.
A student played “My Heart Will Go On” on the flute. Attendees took turns standing on top of the tree stump and shared their thoughts on the life of the tree.
While some addressed the tree’s role in the ecology of the campus, others focused more on its cultural significance on campus. Students spoke about how the tree has seen many students come through this university and how the trees are an iconic part of McKeldin Mall.
“This tree, by merely existing, changed the world,” Frye said.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of teakwood’s Flickr account.
Analeigh Hughes is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.