(MOSCOW, Idaho) — It has been four weeks since four University of Idaho students were killed at their off-campus home in Moscow. The Vandal family has since come together to heal and support one another over the past month.
Authorities have still not made any arrests or found a murder weapon in the deaths of Kaylee Goncalves, Maddie Mogen, Ethan Chapin and Xana Kernodle, leaving some residents and students on edge. Despite the tragedy in the tight-knit community, students took a moment to celebrate over the weekend as the school held its winter commencement on Saturday.
Goncalves, who was 20 years old, was supposed to be one of those graduates.
“It’s been a tough few weeks for our community. And I want to acknowledge an enormous loss in our Vandal family,” said University of Idaho President C. Scott Green, who spoke Saturday before the crowd of graduates and parents who attended.
One University of Idaho alumna, Kerry Uhlorn, said she wanted to ensure students felt safe on campus following the tragic events. Uhlorn, a 2007 graduate and member of the Delta Gamma sorority, took to social media and created a page called “DO GOOD – UNIVERSITY OF IDAHO,” a saying and nod to her affiliation with Delta Gamma.
Together, Uhlorn and the group raised more than $20,000 and purchased 2,187 Birdies, a personal safety device, for the Vandal community, she told ABC News.
“I’ve had messages from people I’ve never met, people that […] weren’t even Vandals that just are so touched by this. It’s kind of like a bright light in this really dark situation,” Uhlorn said.
Even before the events last month, Uhlorn described the community as close and tight-knit — with these events bringing everyone closer together.
“I think this horrible thing has just made everybody realize how much more we are as a group and how much we can accomplish when we work together,” she said.
On campus, physical reminders of the losses are visible, as students start finals on Monday.
Greek Row is honoring the four students with flags and banners on their chapter houses throughout campus.
One chapter, Pi Beta Phi, which Mogen and Kernodle belonged to, set up a memorial angel tree on their porch. The women posted to their social media page inviting all members of the community to place an ornament to honor their members this holiday season.
Sigma Chi, the fraternity Chapin belonged to, has its flag at half-staff.
And in the festively decorated town of Moscow, business have adorned their windows with the names of those who were killed, and the tree at the center of town is decorated with notes of remembrance and roses to honor their fellow Vandals.
Despite the pain and darkness of the events, the community has given a new meaning to the phrase “Vandal Strong.”
“This whole thing just reminded me how proud I am to be a Vandal,” Uhlorn added.
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