NDSU student's death mourned at vigils on campus and in Sartell
FARGO - Hundreds of mourners gathered Tuesday evening at North Dakota State University and at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Sartell, Minn., to mark the life of Thomas Bearson with candlelight vigils.After news that the 18-year-old freshma...
FARGO – Hundreds of mourners gathered Tuesday evening at North Dakota State University and at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Sartell, Minn., to mark the life of Thomas Bearson with candlelight vigils.After news that the 18-year-old freshman’s body had been found in south Moorhead Tuesday morning, NDSU campus leaders quickly organized a vigil at the Babbling Brook near the library. More than 200 students gathered together.
“We all take so much for granted,” said Jamie Thul, an NDSU junior studying computer science. He said the students sitting and standing in silence around the stage with lit candles showed up “to be supportive.”
About 500 people attended the 35-minute service at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, where the 2014 Sartell-St. Stephen High School grad’s mother is a teacher and where he had attended school.
“If possible, please reach over and hug your children for us,” concluded a statement from the Bearson family, read by St. Francis Xavier Catholic School Principal Kathy Kockler.
Bearson’s parents, Greg and Deb, and his sister were not present.
Friends of Bearson took the microphone at NDSU to tell of his good nature and how they knew him. One said simply, “I wish we had more time.”
And while many students attending the vigil did not know Bearson personally, they said they were still deeply affected by the loss.
“I didn’t know him,” said Nick Johnson, a sophomore, “but we’re all kind of family together.”
Chris Kading, a junior, echoed that sentiment.
“Everyone at NDSU’s a family,” Kading said. “Everyone’s gonna miss him.”
The vigil started with music from the NDSU Songwriters Guild, which already had a concert planned for Tuesday night before the news of Bearson’s death came out.
Amy Nash, public relations representative for the student government, said for many students, reality hadn’t yet set in.
“I think there’s a lot of shock,” Nash said. “I think a lot of people haven’t absorbed it yet.” She said the vigil was a “chance to all come together and just come deal with the shock.”
Aaron Weber, one of the vigil's organizers, said the large crowd at the event sent a clear message to students struggling with the tragedy. “We’re all here for you,” he said.
In Sartell, Hodari Johnson, 18, of Sartell, said she graduated with Bearson and last saw him about three weeks ago before they went to college – Bearson to North Dakota State University, Johnson to St. Cloud Technical & Community College.
“He was the best. Great athlete. Better friend. Even better brother,” Johnson said after the service. “He always kept a positive attitude, and whenever I needed him, he walked to me. He was my best friend.”
Former classmate Avalon Schlecht, 18, drove from Bethel University to attend the service. While she didn’t know Bearson well, Schlecht said she wanted to be with others who were grieving the loss.
‘Just pure light,” is how Schlecht described him. “He was very energetic and fun and kind of just the guy that everybody loved.”
The St. Cloud (Minn.)Times contributed to this report.