Every year, the words “community” and “tight-knit” are delivered in commencement addresses.
Movers and shakers on college campuses across the nation, feel it is a truth that their frequent exchanges, interactions on quads and by and near academic halls foster a “closeness” between themselves and their scholastic cohort who share the same grounds.
Its impact was palpable Monday evening on the North Carolina Central University campus where late student Myiah Andrews was honored at a vigil in the university’s Library Bowl in front of the James E. Shepard Memorial Library at the heart of campus.
Hundreds attended. When heads bowed in prayer, listeners linked hands. Some wept. Dozens teared.
Ms. Andrews, 18, of Greenville who was in her first year at NCCU, was killed in a vehicle crash late Sunday that has been blamed on alcohol.
Police said the crash occurred in the 1100 block of East Geer Street just after 9:30 p.m. Sunday when an eastbound car driven by Natasha Lynn Taylor crossed a double yellow line and hit a westbound vehicle driven by NCCU student Quillon Rendleman, 18, of Charlotte. NCCU students Jeremiah Phronebarger, Celi Smith and Ms. Andrews were passengers in the car driven by Rendleman.
Taylor, 25, was charged early Monday with felony death by vehicle, driving while impaired and failing to maintain lane control and was being held in the Durham County jail in lieu of $250,000 bail.
Ms. Andrews was pronounced dead at the scene. Police said Taylor, Rendleman, Phronebarger and Smith were treated for injuries that did not appear to be life threatening.
NCCU Interim Chancellor Johnson Akinleye encouraged mourners at the vigil to mourn Ms. Andrews, cherish her memory and support one another and reminded students that counselors from Student Health and Counseling Services would be available in the Student Health Building as well as in McLean Residence Hall.
Ms. Andrews had been studying health care as a pre-nursing major and was active in the NCCU campus chapter of the National Council of Negro Women. She enrolled at NCCU after graduating from Winterville’s South Central High School in 2016.
Members of the NCCU campus chapter of the National Council of Negro Women spoke through their tears. One member called Ms. Andrews a “ball of energy” who will be deeply missed.
Freshman class president Damon Westray read a poem he wrote titled “Beautiful Woman.”
He said, “Beautiful woman this poem is for you / Full of beauty and grace / Rare black queen sitting high on your throne ... A good woman is what you are.”
In an interview Akinleye said, “Anytime you have a tragedy it is a shock, especially an untimely death — a young freshman student. All they did was went to the store and now they were coming back. It was a shock to her friends — to the entire community.”
Akinleye said that he had spoken to Ms. Andrews’ mother twice on Monday.
“She told me that she was still in shock,” Akinleye said.
Ms. Andrews’ mother had traveled to NCCU on Sunday to visit her daughter and had dropped her off at campus at 7:30 p.m., two hours before the accident.
“She said, ‘I did not know that that was the last time I was going to see her.’ Quite a shock. So, we are working through it like a family and I think that we shall overcome,” Akinleye said. “We are large enough and small enough that we have a very close nature. The students, they live on campus. All them live on campus so they know each other very well.”
In the middle of his speech to mourners, freshman class president Westray paused before and after he told his listeners: “An Eagle has lost her life.”