Nick Rohlman

Community members gather to pay their respects during a vigil in memory of UI student Mollie Tibbetts at Hubbard Park on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2018. Tibbetts went missing on July 18, in Brooklyn, Iowa.

UI students and community members gather for a campus vigil to remember Mollie Tibbetts

In the wake of Mollie Tibbetts’ death, fellow Hawkeyes gathered in Hubbard Park to ‘focus on remembering Mollie.’

August 22, 2018

Hundreds of students clad in Dance Marathon and Hawkeye shirts gathered in Hubbard Park on Wednesday evening to remember Mollie Tibbetts, a University of Iowa student who was found dead on Tuesday after a month-long search.

In the hours after Tibbetts’ body was found in a cornfield in rural Iowa, members of Dance Marathon and UI Student Government created “Vigil for Mollie Tibbetts” on Facebook. By the time of the vigil, more than 2,000 students said they were interested in attending the event.

Tibbetts’ brother Jake urged everyone present at the vigil to greet one another and make a new friend. That way, he said, 1,000 people made a friend in his sister’s name.

“The stories you’ve all heard about Mollie over the last month, they’re incredible,” he said. “She was incredible, and we’re going to miss her dearly. But to be honest, what made her so special was she was just like anyone standing here — she loved to run, she loved Harry Potter, she loved the Hawks, she loved her family, she loved her friends.”

UI student Breck Goodman said Tibbetts was her friend for many years and cared deeply for those around her.

“I think the most important thing about Mollie is that she was friends with almost everyone that she saw,” she said. “Even if it was just passing her on the way to class, she would smile and you would feel some sort of comfort because ‘that really short girl just smiled at me.’”

Charlie Ellis, director of Dance Marathon, said Tibbetts left a lasting impression on many people, including those in the Dance Marathon family she was a part of.

“It is crucial we all show the upmost support for each other and all those surrounding us,” Ellis said. “We ask that you please focus on remembering Mollie in helping one another tonight. The world felt the loss of Mollie – between her involvement in the University of Iowa community and Dance Marathon, she was a prominent face on campus.”

University Counseling Service Director Barry Schreier said he was saddened by the news of Tibbetts’ death, but wishes for the UI community to move forward with a sense of unity.

“It’s a terrible loss losing one of our Hawkeye family, so we put a lot of messaging out as a university on social media to express how we’ve been feeling about it,” he said. “This is such a terrible, bottomless, tragic loss for this family, and you can see the community feels this as well.”

Schreier said although there has been much hate speech on social media surrounding Tibbetts’ alleged killer Cristhian Rivera, continuing to speak about it “keeps moving the needle away from where it needs to be, which is community.”

“I think one of the things that happens when cynicism acts up is there is so much grief that has to be managed, and this begins to detract from people’s natural reaction to have a grief response,” Schreier said.

Even though members of the Hawkeye community are grieving, Schreier said he urges everyone to continue practicing self-care and attending class. He also said he encourages students to reach out to their support networks and contact UCS if they are feeling extended periods of grief.

Rivera, who was charged with first-degree murder for Tibbetts’ death, appeared at the Poweshiek County Courthouse Wednesday and a $5 million cash-only bond was set by Magistrate judge Diane Crookham-Johnson. If released, Rivera wouldn’t be allowed to leave Poweshiek County.

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