A life ended too soon
From my office on the third floor of the Etter-Harbin Alumni Center, I have a perfect view of Waller Creek. Normally the picture of serenity, the creek makes its easy way from north of campus through downtown and eventually to Lady Bird Lake. Here, where it passes a lovely Elizabet Ney statue of a woman holding her child, is one of the more idyllic parts of the Forty Acres. Oftentimes, when the weather is right, I look out and find that a professor has moved his or her class out and onto the grassy banks. People from all over come to the creek for a moment of peace, something so hard to find on a bustling urban campus.
On Tuesday, April 5, we were horrified to hear that a woman’s body had been found in the creek. Police swarmed the area, looking for clues as to who she was and how she died. They blocked off all access to the area. An officer was even stationed next to my cubicle to prevent people from peering out the window at the scene below. In time, we learned that the young woman was freshman Haruka Weiser, a dance major from Portland, Oregon. As of presstime, police had arrested a 17-year-old suspect named Meechaiel Criner in conjunction with the first homicide on the UT campus in almost 50 years.
There are no words that can express the grief, the horror that all of us in the extended Longhorn family feel. The senseless snuffing out of a young woman’s life has stained the fabric of our community. At a vigil held days later on the university’s East Mall, thousands of students, faculty, staff, and alumni gathered to honor Haruka and to grieve with her family. “Haruka was a passionate and dedicated dancer and a student,” her parents said in a statement. “She was so happy to be a student at UT, was looking forward to the chance to perform again as a dance major, and was declaring a second major in pre-med. She had plans to explore the world of medicine this summer and to travel to visit family in Japan.”
As the week went on, students began stopping by the Alumni Center. A makeshift memorial developed, where flowers were laid on a statue entitled “Hope” near the south end of the building. As I passed it each morning and the tributes to Haruka grew, I was reminded of the powerful connection we have to this place and to one another. We’ll never find meaning in this heinous crime, but we can honor the beautiful life of a UT student and the awe-inspiring strength of her family. Someday the creek will be the picture of serenity again. Rest in peace, Haruka.
The university has established a memorial fund in Haruka’s memory here.
Photo by Anna Donlan
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