Hundreds of Humboldt State University students, faculty and staff on Thursday gathered on the campus quad, many holding tulips, to honor the victims and survivors of last week's deadly bus crash and stand in solidarity with their loved ones.
"Today, our thoughts are with all of those who were affected, their families and their friends," HSU President Rollin Richmond said. "These have been emotionally difficult times, and I am truly grateful for the outpouring of support I have seen."
While Richmond and other officials including North Coast Assemblyman Wesley Chesbro, California State University Chancellor Timothy White and CSU board of trustees member Larry Norton spoke, many Lumberjack students adorned in the school's green and gold quietly wiped away tears.
"On April 10 -- one week ago today -- we lost a group of bright, young people with promising futures," Richmond said. "They were from low-income families, and many would have been the first in their families to attend college. They were taking all of the right steps to ensure a better future when their lives were cut terribly short."
A FedEx truck crossed a median on Interstate 5 and collided with a tour bus filled with 44 prospective students from Los Angeles and volunteer chaperones in the small farming community of Orland while traveling to HSU. Five students, three chaperones and the truck and bus drivers died in the crash. Dozens were injured.
Admissions counselor Arthur Arzola and chaperones Michael Myvett and his fiancee Mattison Haywood, both HSU graduates, were among the dead.
Student Paige Hanzy, a Los Angeles native, said she was on one of the charter buses that brings students to campus to visit six years ago. She met Myvett as soon as she stepped off.
"He was like a big brother to me," Hanzy said. "He was a fun person to be around. You couldn't cry around him."
Student Ramia Lawrence said she will always remember the time she spent with Myvett.
"The laughs, the late nights, the games, the stories and the great advice," Lawrence said. "I will definitely never forget him."
The families of the students, chaperones and drivers who died and everyone admitted to the hospital will all be given small, green hearts engraved with "Love from Humboldt," Vice President for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs Peg Blake said.
"I am heartened by the commitment of these first-generation college students to finish high school, complete college and to be positioned to help their families out of the cycle of poverty that many found themselves in," Blake said. "We are able to work through this immense tragedy because of them. They are our inspiration."
To show their support, many in attendance filled large poster papers with kind messages.
"I just am totally heartbroken by the opportunity these students were not able to fulfill," student Kristin Peavey said. "I just think that it's unfortunate as a first-generation college student myself. We're all destined for greatness. We just need the support."
Lorna Rodriguez can be reached at 441-0506 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LornaARodriguez.