Editor’s Note: Out of respect, we have decided to let our sources remain anonymous.
If you were walking in front of Norlin Library just before 8:00 p.m. Thursday night, you heard Beyonce singing softly across the quad, “I Was Here.”
The song played for the dozens of people standing by candlelight on the steps, in vigil for University of Colorado student Ikenna “Kenna” Egbune, who died late Wednesday.
Young and old, students and teachers, anyone of every race, creed and orientation stood huddled in a semi-circle against the chill of the evening. People crowded together under umbrellas and in each other’s arms. If a candle went out from a sudden gust of wind, the closest neighbor leaned over to light it again.
Hands were cupped around the flames, drawing warmth, protecting the dancing light from the world.
No one spoke. Everyone was thinking about why they were there. As a member of several clubs at CU Boulder, including Queer People Of Color, the Gay Straight Alliance and the Ethnic Living Learning Community, and the CU Independent, Kenna reached numerous people and seemed to inspire everyone he knew.
For the next hour and a half, people went up to speak and shared their stories about the man they knew. There was a general tone of shock and disbelief in everyone’s voice, as they talked about how they loved him, how they were in love with him, how he helped, motivated and brightened up anyone’s day without even trying.
“I always felt like he understood me and where I was coming from.”
“I guess I’m still waiting for him to text me.”
“Kenna was the fiercest person we all knew. That walk? C’mon now.”
“Kenna was one of the most courageous men… I always looked up to him because he was never afraid to show who he was.”
“Just like everyone, the thing I remember the most about him was just how happy he was. Everything that he would do, he’d do it with so much energy, with so much enthusiasm — he was always himself.”
People spoke with somber faces, tear-streaked and upset, until they quoted Kenna directly, and then everyone’s voice changed. It became lighter, funnier, and a smile rose on their faces like the sun, like the one they said was always on Kenna’s face.
Everyone listening who knew him laughed, every single time.
One by one, people fought through their broken hearts to share their stories, to recall a leader who led by example. They thanked him, they teased him and they remembered him.
“There were some days when you just didn’t want to see anyone, and you’re walking around campus with your head low. I’ve done that a few times, and I thankfully ran into Kenna. He always had such a unique way of making everyone feel so special.”
“He filled up a room with his personality.”
“Kenna was a great person, and we live in a dirty world, and we do need people like him. It’s just unfortunate that we had to lose someone who we don’t get to meet like that very much, because Kenna could have made a really big difference in this world.”
The evening ended with a prayer for his family and a moment of silence.
Then, one of Kenna’s many friends said, “We were putting together music … to play tonight for Kenna, and the majority of his favorite songs that we were talking about aren’t completely appropriate for a candlelight vigil. But, I decided, why not.”
The people at the vigil comforted each other and kissed each other and wiped the tears away and went home as Nicki Minaj and Rihanna sang “Fly” into the night.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Gemma Solomons at Gemma.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Very moving story , Gemma. Beautifully written.