Photo by Charlie DeBoyace/The Diamondback
Photo by Charlie DeBoyace/The Diamondback

By Jenny Hottle, Senior staff writer
Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013
Originally posted on diamondbackonline.com

Through the tears and hugs of condolence Tuesday night, Stephen Alex Rane’s friends remembered the senior English and linguistics major’s way with words and love for traveling and chocolate chip cookies, less than 24 hours after the 22-year-old was killed in a shooting at his off-campus home.

“There are not many friends you stay friends with after high school, but he was one of them,” said Jeanette Santori, Rane’s first girlfriend. “He was so witty and always had something clever to say. He was hilarious in an intellectual way.”

After two students died and a third student suffered non-life-threating injuries early yesterday morning in an apparent murder-suicide, members of the campus community began mobilizing to give students, faculty and staff a space to reflect on the tragedy and bolster each others’ spirits. At about 7 p.m., people began to filter into the Memorial Chapel, filling nearly half the seats to listen to university leaders’ words, students’ music and prayers of comfort.

Graduate student Dayvon Maurice Green reportedly carried out the shooting, killing Rane and injuring another 22-year-old undergraduate student, Prince George’s County Police said at a news conference yesterday.

It was a phone call university President Wallace Loh never wanted to get, he said at the service.

“The telephone call that woke me up early this morning will keep me awake for many nights,” Loh said. “This violent act haunts us all. Each of us is asking, ‘What do we need to change to prevent or minimize the chance of such violence occurring again?’ But tonight is a moment for solidarity.”

In the silence, broken only by the clicking of a few camera shutters, friends and family members joined College Park City Council members and students to remember those involved in the shooting.

“When you hear about events like this, it’s always ‘somebody else,’” said Suzette Santori, Jeanette Santori’s mother. “But it’s not somebody else.”

“Our grief is so intense, it’s intolerable and endless,” Loh said. “But experience tells me it will yield with time. But tonight, though, we will ache. As a university community, we will carry on, we will do the things we must and only then will our collective sadness lift.”

Though last night was a time for reflection and remembering, the events bring to light a call to end violent crimes, said Graduate Student Government President David Colon-Cabrera and Student Government Association President Samantha Zwerling.

“We must heal our wounds, facing the realization that those in higher education are not immune to the ills of society,” Colon-Cabrera said. “We must grasp the opportunity to realize what we are doing right and what we must improve on.”

For some students who didn’t personally know the individuals involved, the event was eye-opening to the impact of violent acts.

“It’s a reality — it’s not just a distant state or another country,” said Joseph Silver, a 2012 alumnus who came with his Bible study group. “The recent violent things that have happened, like shootings, seem so distant, and just the fact that this was right here in the city, the reality hits home. It’s really shocking.”

Others hoped the vigil, which lasted about 40 minutes, would highlight a need for increased accessibility to mental health services, which university officials are working to expand. Unrelated to the shootings, the university has recently hired more psychologists, Loh said.

“It’s such a tragic thing that happened, and it’s awful that it happened, and I just hope that this definitely brings light to the issue of mental health and to make it available to everyone,” said Help Center counselor Ashlyn Sassaman, a sophomore art history and neurobiology major.

The events shocked and shattered preconceptions of safety and human behavior, Silver said, adding it may spur more people to reach out to friends in need.

“It will make people more aware of those around them that are acting funny or that maybe seem like they’re depressed or maybe have violent tendencies,” Silver said. “I think it’ll just be eye-opening and help us become more aware of these kinds of things.”

For now, friends said they’ll remember Stephen for his positive catchphrase, “Stephen is great,” which Jeanette Santori said expressed his bright personality.

A “musically voracious” student, Rane was eager to learn new instruments such as saxophone and the tin whistle, said Jeanette Santori, a senior computer science major at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

“He always wanted to travel, and he wanted to learn like 20 different languages,” she said.

He was like a son, Suzette Santori said.

“I always kept chocolate chip cookies in the fridge for him,” she said. “He was very close to us.”

Drew Needham, one of Rane’s roommates sophomore and junior year, said his friend was one of the most genuine people he’s ever met.

“We blended really well, even though we were opposites,” the senior biology major said.

At the end of the memorial service, Needham said there was so much more he wished he had said to his friend.

“He’s one of the few people I’ve ever connected with this well,” he said. “I felt like I could tell him anything. He’s going to be missed.”

newsumdbk@gmail.com

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