A crowd gathered in the Muir quad at 9 p.m. Thursday evening to remember the passing of Muir senior Joshua Eber.
Eber had been missing since Monday evening. The Thursday night gathering was intended to be a candlelight vigil for the missing student.
However, the event turned into a memorial service.
Eber was killed in a car accident near Las Pulgas Road, off Interstate 5 at Camp Pendleton. He was 22.
Authorities are still unsure why his car crashed. He left his apartment in Mira Mesa at approximately 11 p.m. on Monday night. He was driving home to Calabasas, Calif., to be with his mother as she underwent an angiogram.
Eber’s body was found late Thursday afternoon by a railroad worker. He was still seatbelted in his BMW, which had struck a tree. The car was hidden by bushes.
Students gathered to comfort one another with words about the deceased student. Eber’s roommate, Robert Bessler, spoke of his friend. Bessler initiated an open microphone session for friends to share words about Eber. Bessler also had the difficult job of letting the gatherers know about the death of Eber.
“”Josh was a great person and a great friend,”” Bessler said, after a moment of silence was observed. “”We pray for him and wish his family the best of luck.””
Bessler then asked another friend to say a prayer for the group. Following the prayer, students shared portraits of Eber’s life.
“”He was a friend that I could call at 3 in the morning and he would be there,”” Melissa Caputo said. “”Just last week, I was having a hard time. He could always tell. He would ask me, ‘What’s wrong Melissa? What’s wrong?’ He could always tell and he would always do whatever he could to help someone.””
Caputo arrived early to pass out purple ribbons to all those in attendance. Purple is the color of Eber’s fraternity, Sigma Alpha Mu. Muir Dean Chips Dreilinger also spoke fondly of Eber.
“”He loved his college and he loved having fun,”” Dreilinger said. “”He was a good kid. This is a bad quarter. This has been the second student death in a month or so.””
Dreilinger was referring to the death of Revelle freshman Gilbert F.D. Nunez on Feb. 10. The series of tragedies, including the deaths of UC Santa Barbara students killed by a driver in Isla Vista, have come as a great shock to many students. Psychological Services was present at the Eber memorial to offer support and options for those who needed to talk.
“”I want to let you know that you have support through Psychological Services,”” said Dr. Sam Park.
Ellen Kin spoke of the individualized need for grief.
“”Our support groups allow students to grieve in different ways,”” Kin said. “”Some need to talk. Others need more time. Some are angry. Others are sad. Especially after recent tragedies, we need to be there for each other.””
The night continued on a somber tone, as students met with each other to discuss the loss of their friend and loved one.
Others told stories of things that Eber had done. Chip Hatch, husband of Nancy Hatch of Interdisciplinary Studies, played a Scottish bagpipe piece, “”By the Water’s Edge.””
Hatch saw a particular connection to the piece’s title and Eber’s life. Eber had just returned from Semester at Sea through the Programs Abroad Office. Muir Resident Dean Pat Danylyshyn-Adams remembered Eber expressing great excitement about going abroad.
“”I was very excited he got to have a Semester at Sea,”” Adams said. “”It is something he had talked about for a long time. He had to delay going once, but he finally got to go. I am really happy for him.””
Speculation over the reason for the crash yields only more questions. It was raining heavily on Monday evening, which may have played a part in the crash.
Eber was an insulin-dependent diabetic who took medication several times a day. Without the insulin, Eber could have lapsed into a diabetic coma, while too much insulin can also send diabetics into insulin shock.
KUSI news reporter John Soderman, who was at the scene of the accident earlier on Thursday, noted, “”He died in the act of being a good son.””
Kin, Park and Dr. Reina Juarez of Psychological Services are available for individual appointments for any reason. Their number is (858) 534-3755. The group also holds a grief group Thursdays at 2 p.m. with Nancy Wahlig of the Student Safety Awareness program.