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Comfort in community

Taylor supports and is supported by surrounding schools

By Becca Robb | Echo

The Memorial Prayer Chapel was built to commemorate the lives of those lost in the tragedy.

The Memorial Prayer Chapel was built to commemorate the lives of those lost in the tragedy. (Photo by Mindy Wildman)

In times of deep difficulty, Taylor and like-minded schools come together as a family. From providing buses and offering catering services, schools like Indiana Wesleyan University (IWU) and Anderson University offered comfort to Taylor amid the tragedy. In addition, Taylor has reached out to other schools, including Lynn University and Manchester University, during their own times of grief.

IWU’s then-president, Jim Barnes, had been at Marion General Hospital for another reason when Taylor students began arriving in the emergency room back in 2006. As soon as he heard about the accident, he gathered with Taylor students who were waiting and prayed with them.

Alan Miller, IWU’s director of university relations, soon joined Barnes at the hospital and stayed for two hours, comforting the students. Miller said he offered to help Director of Media Relations Jim Garringer while Taylor’s marketing department was receiving too many calls for them to handle.

IWU also shared two 54-passenger buses, including drivers and fuel, to transport students to out-of-town funerals.

“We talk about the two universities being rivals, but that is only on the athletic field,” Miller said. “In times of crisis, we stand together.”

During the time of the accident, Anderson University supported Taylor by sending its dining staff to cater memorial events. Several of the van accident victims were dining employees, so Anderson wanted to allow other members of Taylor’s dining staff to attend the week’s memorial events. Anderson and Taylor were both Creative Dining Services clients at the time, which made it easier for Anderson to share its services.

Brent Baker, Anderson’s vice president for student affairs, said it just made sense to help out where they could.

“It sure seemed like the body of Christ came together and offered a lot of compassion and love to one another,” Baker said. “(It was) kind of one of those awful times that has a level of beauty as well.”

Not only did other schools support Taylor during the tragedy, but Taylor community members have also reached out to other schools in times of grief.

Lynn University in Boca Raton, Florida experienced a loss of its own in 2010, when several community members perished in the Haiti earthquake. President Eugene Habecker reached out to Lynn soon after their tragedy. He continued to support Gregory Malfitano, Lynn’s senior vice president for development and administration, as Lynn’s campus community processed its grief, according to Jamie D’Aria, Lynn’s public relations manager.

Similar to Taylor’s Memorial Prayer Chapel, Lynn’s Remembrance Plaza was built to honor the four students and two faculty members who lost their lives in the Haiti earthquake during a service trip. The building was completed on March 16, 2012, according to Lynn’s website.

When three Manchester University students died in an automobile accident on February 21, 2016, Dereck Kamwesa (’06), coordinator of ethnic and international recruitment, reached out to and served Manchester during the tragedy.

After hearing about the accident, Kamwesa gathered the students connected with the victims and drove to Marion General Hospital. At this point, they knew there had been casualties, but the hospital had not yet released the names.

The waiting room filled with Manchester and Taylor students. Kamwesa said he was the only person there in an official capacity to comfort the students and communicate with hospital staff until Manchester’s International Officer arrived later.

Kamwesa said the Manchester accident reminded him of the 2006 van accident, which occurred during his senior year. Having been in that same situation almost 10 years earlier, Kamwesa said he knew what these students were going through and how unreal it must have seemed to them when the coroner read the names of the deceased.

“At that moment, it didn’t matter whether it was a Taylor student or a Manchester student (who was involved in the accident). What mattered was to be here with (them),” Kamwesa said.

When Manchester held its memorial service later that week, Kamwesa said there weren’t enough cars to drive all the students to the funeral home for the viewing. To help, Kamwesa piled six to seven Manchester students in a car and drove them to the funeral home. He said that driving that car filled with Manchester students was his way of supporting them in their difficult situation.

 

The article above is part of a series of pieces regarding the 10-year anniversary of the 2006 van accident. To read the other articles in the series, please click on the hyperlinks below.

Brevity and beauty

Bruised hearts

Redefining identity

Taylor community remembers 2006 van accident

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