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Friday, April 4, 2014 10:57 a.m.

Shaken community gathers to mourn the deaths of two West Hall students

More than 100 friends and family members gathered on the terrace of the Marvin Center on Thursday evening. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

More than 100 friends and family members gathered on the terrace of the Marvin Center on Thursday evening. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Updated: Friday, April 4 at 3:28 p.m.

This post was written by Hatchet news editors Brianna Gurciullo and Chloé Sorvino.

After three days of heartbreak for the University, memories of two West Hall residents poured onto a Marvin Center terrace that was speckled with candlelight and filled with friends and family members standing shoulder-to-shoulder Thursday night.

One by one and in no particular order, friends and family walked to a microphone to share a mix of memories and reflections to mourn the deaths of 21-year-old senior Lynley Redwood, who died Tuesday, and 19-year-old freshman Benjamin Asma, who died Thursday.

Redwood’s classmates at the Bryn Mawr School for Girls in Baltimore, who handed out daisies at the memorial service, described her as a talented dancer, gifted chemistry student and comforting friend.

Senior Paris Bienert, who had been friends with Redwood since the first grade, said she remembers learning that the two would both attend GW, and said Redwood had “always been there” for her.

“Our friendship was such that we could not speak or see each other for years, it never was like that, but we could go that long and pick up right where we left off,” Bienert said. “But I guess what I’m trying to say is, even if you have those friends where you have the relationship that you don’t have to talk all the time, you should talk to them. You can never tell someone that you love them too much, and no one can hear it too much.”

Students from Asma’s fraternity, Beta Theta Pi, stood close to his parents and siblings while friends described his affinity for raw cookie dough and his habit of volunteering to wash dishes whenever he and his floormates held Sunday dinners.

Leann and Benjamin Asma, Sr., the freshman’s parents, expressed their profound feelings of loss and shock about their son’s death, which officers told them was an apparent suicide. Leann Asma urged students to help each others overcome difficult personal circumstances to hopefully prevent the type of phone call that she described as “every parent’s worst nightmare.”

Benjamin Asma. Photo Courtesy of Leann Asma.

Benjamin Asma. Photo Courtesy of Leann Asma.

Friends of both students reminded each other to be kind, smiling to each other on the street, and keep in touch with family back home. “Please talk to your parents,” Leann Asma urged, standing beside her husband and daughter.

“Be strong for each other, and please, when you have a feeling that someone might be in distress, please reach out, even if it means calling their parents and they never speak to you again after that, it’s worth it,” she said.

Senior Kostas Skordalos, who knew Redwood since he was 16, remembers taking history classes with her in high school, but said the two drifted apart.

“If you ever have friends you’re worried about, reach out,” said Skordalos, who also helped plan the memorial in his role as executive vice president of the Student Association.

Administrators including University President Steven Knapp, Provost Steven Lerman, Dean of Students Affairs Peter Konwerski and Associate Dean of Students Mark Levine also attended the 40-minute ceremony. Knapp released a statement on Asma’s death Friday morning, and has extended counseling services on the Mount Vernon Campus this week.

Dozens of members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity held candles for freshman Benjamin Asma. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

Dozens of members of the Beta Theta Pi fraternity held candles for freshman Benjamin Asma. Cameron Lancaster | Assistant Photo Editor

“Our main concern at this difficult time is to provide support to those most closely affected by this devastating loss. The staffs of the University Counseling Center, Division of Student Affairs, and West Hall are reaching out directly to these students to offer assistance,” Knapp wrote in his email to the GW community.

In the last three months, three students have died from West Hall, a tight-knit community on the Mount Vernon Campus of about 300 freshmen and upperclassmen. In January, freshman engineering and honors student Sean Keefer took his own life.

It is the first string of undergraduate deaths on campus since at least three students committed suicide in 2003 and 2004.

Redwood was found dead in her room Tuesday morning around 7:30 a.m. The Metropolitan Police Department does not have additional details about Redwood’s death, but said it was not related to criminal activity. Hours later, Asma was rushed to the hospital after an apparent suicide attempt, his parents said.

Asma, who was an biomedical engineering student in the honors program, was also involved in club swimming, the GW Band and the GW Tech Collective, a student organization in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Asma was remembered by family members and friends as a compassionate and kind person with a “contagious smile” who became fast friends with many of his classmates.

“You guys are helping the healing process and helping us understand the environment he’s been in, and it’s beautiful,” his father, Benjamin Asma Sr., said.

This post was updated to include more complete quotes from Paris Bienert.

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