UVA student’s disappearance felt by LB alumni

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UVA student’s disappearance felt by LB alumni

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On September 13, at approximately 1 a.m., a night out for University of Virginia second-year Hannah Graham took a tragic turn when she went missing. Graham had just returned to UVA a few months before to begin a new year, but now, her loved ones are hoping she will be found and that the case will be resolved. Her story strikes a chord for many LB alumni currently attending the university.

“I was shocked when I heard,” first-year and LB alum Jordan Rothwell said. “I was surprised that her friends didn’t keep an eye out for her and let her walk alone.”

Rothwell’s sister lives in the apartment complex where the party (which Graham was at that night) was held. She is surprised because she or her sister could have very well been in a similar situation, Rothwell said.

UVA has been stepping up campus safety since the disappearance nearly three weeks ago that could provide students and their families with more peace of mind.

“UVA and the Charlottesville police have actually been really proactive about adding extra safety precautions,” second-year and LB alum Kailey Leinz said.

UVA is now providing vans to drive students who don’t feel comfortable walking alone and the police have been patrolling the street corners on weekends, Leinz said. The University has also sent out many email updates regarding safety procedures on campus.

Even though the story has inspired worry on campus, many students have bonded together in the hope that Graham will be okay. First-year and LB alum Sydney Kirwan attended the candlelight vigil held for Graham the Thursday after her disappearance.

“Several UVA music groups performed some of her favorite songs and several people spoke, including friends of Hannah and the UVA President, Teresa Sullivan,” Kirwan said. “It was a time for us all to come together as a community to support of Hannah, her family and friends.”

In the past week, 32 year-old suspect Jesse Matthew has been apprehended by police, as he was the last person seen with Graham. He was arrested after fleeing to Galveston, Texas. While his arrest has caused mounting debates about safety and sexual assault at UVA, Kirwan feels that the UVA’s reputation is not to be called into question.

“If at all, my opinion of UVA has changed for the better. The sense of community that has brought us all together since Hannah’s disappearance is really comforting,” Kirwan said. “Unfortunately, something like this can happen anywhere, to anyone, but it has really shown how UVA is a strong and supportive community.”

Graham will be kept in the thoughts of students in the weeks to come as the search continues. The tragic events hit close to home with those in the Northern Virginia area.

“I think that the fact that this happened should be a warning to all students, at all schools, that you should never go off alone,” Leinz said. “This could have happened to anyone at UVA. It could have even happened to me. Everyone just needs to be careful.”

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                             photos courtesy of Sydney Kirwan

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