At an age when many people find dealing with a single death to be confusing and emotionally draining, many Boston University students seem to be feeling the effects of a difficult year full of multiple deaths and sadness.
Twelve undergraduate and graduate students have died since April 2012, a figure that university officials said is unprecedented.
“We did lose a lot of students this year through a variety of different ways,” said Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore. “It was a lot. There were a lot of students this year. If you stretch a little more maybe to the last two years, it’s been a lot for us to all struggle with emotionally … I think it takes its toll on all of us, that sadness that you encounter quite a bit.”
While members of the community cannot help but notice the multiple deaths, each is its own tragedy, particularly for those close to the victims, said BU spokesman Colin Riley.
“For young people, obviously you’re talking about how many people there are,” he said. “… It’s devastating to the family and incomprehensible to friends and anyone to see a young a person pass away at a very young age.”
In April 2012, a Boston University School of Medicine graduate student died of an apparent overdose. Less than two weeks later, Graduate School of Management student Kangala Seshadri Rao was shot and killed in Allston.
In May 2012, College of Engineering junior Austin Brashears, School of Management junior Daniela Lekhno and College of Arts and Sciences sophomore Roch Jauberty were killed in a fatal car accident in New Zealand.
Archaeology doctoral student Chad DiGregorio died in Turkey in July after falling while working at a site.
Toward the end of the fall 2012 semester, CAS sophomore Chung-wei “Victor” Yang and College of Communication first-year graduate student Chris Weigl died in separate bike accidents.
In January, CAS student Sammy Habib died at the age of 20 due to complications from a heart condition. While he was not at BU at the time, he attended for two full semesters before health issues arose, and he intended to return and graduate in 2014.
ENG freshman Tony Barksdale II died in March after being medically transported function at a home in Allston.
Most recently, first-year Graduate School of Arts and Sciences student Lingzi Lu was killed in the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings, and CAS senior Binland Lee died in a fire in Allston Sunday morning.
“For young people, there may be people who have never experienced such a loss of someone they knew or sat in class with,” Riley said. “… It’s a very common thing at that age not really to understand mortality. Everyone understands that you live your life, and to have it end at a young age is really tragic and shocking.”
Several BU students said they have noticed the frequency of the tragedies and the emotional toll they have had.
“It is all very sad,” said ENG freshman David Crowell. “But it definitely makes you appreciate the people you have in your life.”
CAS sophomore Kelsey Dielman said the deaths should not reflect any negativity on the part of the BU community, as people have shown support for one another.
“What has happened this year has been very tragic and unfortunate,” she said. “It has brought the community together in a sad kind of way. I hope it doesn’t affect how many people come next year and I don’t think it should — this isn’t a reflection on BU itself.”
Riley said he praises the way students have come together in response to such overwhelming sadness.
“Having worked here more than 20 years, I’ve seen how resilient young people are, how the counseling services help people, how community supports people grieving and mourning and how people take strength from that and learn from that and are able to move on with their lives,” he said. “It’s really remarkable for something so devastating and so challenging.”
In particular, Riley said the community-organized memorials and vigils have been a source of strength and warmth for those suffering.
“I couldn’t be more impressed by how devoted these students are to their friends and classmates that they’ve lost and how difficult it is to speak up on their behalf,” he said.
Elmore said BU’s various counseling services have put in extra time and effort to help the healing process, and he stressed the importance of communication during difficult times.
“I think we shouldn’t underestimate how important it is for people to have conversations with each other, he said. “… But I found, and I think a lot of people found ‘I just need somebody to talk to about this. I need to try and make meaning of it.’ and a way that you do that is through conversation.”
Zoe Roos and Margaret Waterman contributed to the reporting of this article.