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Observer Editorial: We mourn together

| Friday, October 30, 2020

Our community has experienced an unbelievable loss in the deaths of first year students Valeria Espinel and Olivia Laura Rojas, two young women who had just begun their time at Notre Dame. We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Espinel and Rojas families, as well as the Badin Hall and Cavanaugh Hall communities. We also send wishes of a swift and full recovery to sophomore Eduardo Jose Elias Calderon.

We especially want to reach out to the class of 2024 and those who knew Valeria and Olivia as classmates, roommates and friends. Freshman year is a time of massive transition; people walk in and out of your life as you navigate the corridors of college. Some stick around and become your lifelong friends, and others fade out to become fond, distant memories. It’s a strange but beautiful way to build relationships and all part of the first-year experience.

Having a close friend for a few short months and losing them abruptly is a confusing type of pain. And for a first-year class enduring one of the most tumultuous fall semesters on record, there is a sense of impermanence clouding every experience. These feelings are compounded by the uncertainty surrounding Saturday morning’s accident, offering more questions than answers to those searching for meaning in all of this.

Fr. Joe Corpora spoke to this confusion, the weight of pain and loss that is too heavy to bear without support.

“It is too much, too sad, too tragic, too big for us to accept and understand what has happened,” he said at the prayer service held for Valeria, Olivia and Eduardo. “I wish that I could say some words to you that would make everything better. But there are not.”

Know that you are not alone in these feelings. There are resources available and an entire community standing beside you.

Notre Dame’s University Counseling Center (574-631-7336) is open 24 hours a day, and Campus Ministry (574-631-7800) also offers support. At Saint Mary’s, you can reach out to the Health and Counseling Center (574-284-4805). Holy Cross also offers counseling services (574-239-8383).

Outside of these resources, there are others who will provide support, comfort and a space to grieve. Talk to your friends, professors and mentors. Let them know if you need to press pause on normal life for a moment, and offer them the same opportunity. We are quickly approaching the end of this semester, but everyone should feel free to slow down and recognize this loss.

There is nothing that can be said to make this tragedy better or make it make sense. All we can do right now is come together and lean on each other as the tri-campus community has always done in times of great tragedy.

Hundreds of candles lit the Grotto from within Saturday, each flickering flame representing another person lifting up thoughts and prayers for the three students impacted by this accident.

Our community will remember Valeria and Olivia fondly, but we will not let them fade.

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