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Community holds vigil for tragic death of Rockhurst freshman

Students and families gathered April 13 to honor Rockhurst freshman Harrison Rupp, who passed away tragically last week.

Members of the Rockhurst High School community gather in Jacob L. Loose Park April 13. Most in attendance wore blue, white or Rockhurst apparel. photo by Linden O'Brien-Williams

by Linden O'Brien-Williams, Editor-in-chief

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Cars surround the perimeter of Jacob L. Loose Park, many cars invading the nearby residential streets. Students and families dressed in blue and white flock silently from every direction toward a growing mass of people in the center of the park. As more people attach themselves to the growing circle, a friendly father walks around with a box of candles, offering them to those who forgot to bring their own.

To passers-by, the image is that of a giant crowd of people with white candle light, students sitting in the center, parents and latecomers forming a standing wall around the outside. To members of the Rockhurst High School community, the image is that of love, respect and grief for one of their own. The image is that of the vigil, organized by students at Rockhurst, STA, and Sion, honoring Harrison Rupp, the Rockhurst freshman who tragically passed away last Monday, April 10.

In the days following Rupp’s death, the St. Teresa’s Academy community placed flowers, notes and photos honoring Rupp on the school seal in the middle of the quad. By Wednesday, students had begun organizing the vigil at Loose Park to be held Thursday, April 13 at 8 p.m.

Many Rockhurst students estimate that there were at least 1,000 to 1,500 people in attendance to share their stories or lend support to those grieving. At the front of the circle was a table with candles next to a microphone. For about an hour and a half, students would share memories about Harrison, many of them fighting through tears and voice cracks to get out what they wanted to say. Memories came from people of all different communities and different relations to Harrison. Some were friends from Rockhurst, some friends from his grade school, St. Paul’s Episcopal Day School, some friends from Carriage Club, Rockhurst sports and still more stories from his own family members.

Any person in attendance, after hearing all of the testimony from Harrison’s family and friends, would tell you that Harrison was widely loved, involved and appreciated. Right before Rockhurst senior Ryan Chandler concluded the event around 9:30 p.m., Harrison’s little sister, Claire, ended the vigil on an extremely sentimental note.

“He helped me through these amazing 12 years of my life,” Claire said. “…Harrison was a great role model… Words can’t even describe how much I love him and will miss him.”

Harrison Rupp’s obituary can be found here. His funeral was held 11 a.m. Monday, April 17, at Visitation Church.

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Community holds vigil for tragic death of Rockhurst freshman