CHARLOTTESVILLE — Thousands of people joined Virginia’s soccer team, coaches and staff on Saturday to honor three players who were shot while returning from a field trip last weekend.
Lavel Davis Jr., D’Sean Perry and Devin Chandler were remembered during a memorial service in Charlottesville as great teammates who always wore smiles and sought to brighten the lives of those around them, from teammates to others students and fans.
“Only time will reveal God’s purpose in this need. … Going forward I am confident that all three will be rejoicing in paradise and saying well on behalf of each of us in preparing for the time when we will all be together again,” said first-year coach Tony Elliott.
Of the family and friends in the front two, Coach Elliott added, “I am grateful for your willingness to share your family’s gifts with all of us.”
Sharing stories she heard from family members of the players this week, sporting director Carla Williams said the tragedy “has pushed me to my limits”.
“We are better and we will do better because we will make sure her legacy at the University of Virginia never fades,” she vowed, telling families, “We loved your sons.”
The service at the John Paul Jones Arena took place on a day where the Cavaliers were playing No. 23 Coastal Carolina were scheduled to play but instead chose to honor their fallen teammates, as well as injured player Mike Hollins and another student who was shot.
Among the presenters was Grammy-winning gospel singer CeCe Winans, who the school had asked to attend. She sang “God’s Goodness”.
Several cavaliers took part. Placekicker Justin Duenkel offered an opening prayer, linebacker Hunter Stewart read the Langston Hughes poem “Life is Fine,” and defensive end Jack Camper offered the closing prayer. In between, administrators and teammates of the slain men offered stories and reflections on their football brothers.
Mr. Perry was “destined to be great at everything he did,” said defensive tackle Aaron Faumui. He added that Mr Perry often reminded him that “life is more important than football”.
In a letter to Mr. Chandler, which Mr. Williams called a “dancing machine,” Cody Brown told him that “you have lit up our lives like a shining star in the sky,” saying, “We love you so much and know that.” smile down on us from heaven.”
Coach Marques Hagans said Mr Davis was humble with a beaming smile and “determined to be a great example for his younger sister and brother”.
Teammate Chico Bennett offered a message for Mr. Hollins and Marlee Morgan, the injured student, who were both absent: “We love you. we have you The journey starts.”
University President Jim Ryan said the shootings “changed our world” and while he and others will mourn the games the students will never play, “together we will find strength again.”
The players were killed after a field trip to Washington DC last Sunday. Former Virginia football player Christopher Darnell Jones Jr. faces triple second-degree murder and other charges. The shootings sparked a manhunt and a 12-hour campus lockdown before Mr. Jones was arrested.
The suspect was never mentioned during the nearly two-hour service.
Mourners were allowed to enter an hour before the service was scheduled to begin and heard musical performances by school choir groups and the MLK Community Choir. Photos of the players as children and in action on the field ran across the video board.
As a result of numerous UVA alumni and friends of the university wanting to help the families of the victims and survivors of the November 13 shooting, the UVA Strong Fund was formed by the University of Virginia Alumni Association. The money raised will also be used to help students coping with trauma after the shooting.
“Our hearts are broken, but together we will heal our spirits,” reads a passage on the fund’s website.