Carolinian – Campus News
Issue: 2/25/02

‘It’s all right to cry’
By John Ayers

“Some things pass understanding,” said Rev. Charles Hawes Tuesday in Aycock. “All I know is it’s alright to cry.”

Hawes spoke at the ceremony honoring UNCG students Latronda Bright, Beth Harris and Rachel Llewellyn as well as former students John Chase Bennett and Anita Norfleet. All five died in the span of one week.

About 1500 family, friends and community members came to reflect upon the lives and mourn the passing of the five, all of whom were less than 23 years old.

Bright, 22, and Norfleet, 21, were killed in a car accident Feb. 10 near Candor, NC.

Bennett, 19, was found dead in a car on Tate St. Feb 12. Police said Thursday that he died from accidental carbon monoxide poisoning.

Harris, 20, and Llewellyn, 21, were killed in a fire Feb. 15 at the Campus Walk apartments near Spring Garden St.

“Beautiful young people should not die,” said Hawes. “It’s unnatural. It’s obscene. It’s scary- maybe you could die, too.”

“We are struggling to find a reason for this loss,” said Chancellor Patricia Sullivan as she opened the ceremony. “We turn to scripture, poetry, literature and music to assuage [our] grief and help us begin the long difficult practice of healing.”

People cried throughout the ceremony into Kleenex ushers were handing out at the entrances.

Many in the audience were visibly shaken as Beth Harris’ father Bob Harris spoke about his daughter.

“Losing a daughter is tough,” said Harris through tears. “But sharing with you who Beth Harris was is the easiest thing to do.”

“She always wanted to be part of the group to make them better,” said Harris, whose daughter was a music education major and a member of three vocal ensembles: Women’s Choir, University Chorale and Madrigal Singers.

“She was very honored to be able to sing with you,” said Harris to the members of the University Chorale, who were sitting directly in front of the stage.

The Chorale performed the song “We Remember Them” in honor of Beth and the four others who died.

Hawes, the chaplain at St. Mary’s House on Walker Ave., said he was at first reluctant to speak at the service.

“Who wants to stand in front of sad college students, faculty, administrators and deeply grieving families and try to make sense out of utter nonsense?” said Hawes. He repeated, “All I know is it’s alright to cry.”

“The really scary thing is finding out you’re not in charge,” said Hawes. “It’s God’s will, some will say. I don’t believe that. I believe God redeems bad scenes, but God does not will them.”

“There is goodness here too,” said Hawes as a baby cried from the balcony. “You can hear it in the voice of the little one back there.”

After the service, many sat outside under the gray sky and wept.

Several nursing students in white uniforms were crying. Some were classmates of Rachel Llewellyn, who was a nursing major.

“We had class together and we talked,” said Jennifer Day, junior. “She was more concerned about others than herself. She would have made a good nurse.”

Others knew Harris from the music building.

“I knew Beth by name and I saw her a lot in the music building,” said Gretchen Marsden, freshman. “She was very nice, very friendly. She would go to anybody and give them encouragement if they were trying out for something.”

Police have charged Janet Louise Danahey, 23, with four counts of first-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson in the fire that killed Harris, Llewellyn and two others, Donna Llewellyn and Ryan Bek.

Police said Danahey lived at 2607 Spring Garden St. and had an acquaintance in the Campus Walk apartments.

Prosecutors said last week that they may seek the death penalty against Danahey.

Donna Llewellyn and Bek were employees at Greensboro College, where a memorial was held for them last Monday.

While some have expressed anger towards Danahey, many at the service were slow to cast blame on her.

“It’s a huge tragedy that doesn’t make sense,” said Marsden. “I actually pity the girl who did this.”

“I think it’s just frustrating,” said Amanda Northrup, junior. “It makes it difficult to cope. It’s sometimes much easier if you don’t know the answers.”