At a scene becoming all too familiar to the GW community, more than 100 students gathered in the Marvin Center Monday night to mourn the death of freshman Hasan Hussain.
The vigil, which began at 9 p.m., included prayers and readings from the Quran and comments from students, local Muslim leaders and University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg.
Hussain, 19, of Jacksonville, Fla., died Sunday night from massive head trauma after he fell 80 feet from the balcony of his room in the Hall on Virginia Avenue.
On a warm night on the Marvin Center’s third floor outdoor terrace, freshman Shannon Munro recalled Hussain’s kindness at a Christmas event last year.
“This past Christmas … my secret Santa didn’t know what to get me,” said Munro, who lived on HOVA’s fourth floor with Hussain. “After getting my gift and being so thrilled, I found out that it was Hasan who told my secret Santa what to get me.”
Trachtenberg reflected on the loss of Hussain, a passionate advocate of religious freedom who was a member of the Islamic Alliance For Justice and the Muslim Students’ Association.
“Out of all the melancholy events I have experienced over those past 25 years (as a university president), this is one of the saddest,” a visibly distraught Trachtenberg told the crowd of weeping mourners, who sat cross-legged on a blue tarp in accordance with Muslim tradition.
Members of the Muslim Students’ Association and the Islamic Alliance for Justice organized the ceremony, which took place just more than a day after the Florida native’s death.
Friends remembered Hussain as a good-natured and philosophical student who always had a smile on hisface. Sophomore Khadija Amjad said Hussain’s presence had a calming effect on her.
“He’s just this guy with a beautiful smile that makes you want to smile,” said Amjad, who met Hussain through the Islamic Alliance for Justice.
Freshman Andrew Voyer, who lived on the fourth floor of HOVA, said his father visited campus last October and took a group of his friends, including Hussain, out to dinner.
“Him and my dad sat there and were talking about Chinese communist philosophies,” Voyer told the crowd. “I was just in awe that my father, who is an educated man, was being taught by someone who was 18 years old.”
Barrett Mooney, a University of Maryland freshman who knew Hussain since sixth grade, spoke about his best memory of “a studious, kind and fun kid” who loved the Star Wars trilogy as a middle school student.
“(A)ll of us went over (to) his house, and he was excited because he wanted to watch all of the three movies,” said Mooney, who attended high school with Hussain.
Hussain is the fifth GW student to die since December. University officials are considering setting up a commission to investigate GW’s response to the deaths of two freshman, two sophomores and a law student over the last five months. (see GW copes with deaths” p. 1)
Following each death, University Counseling Center staff met with students in an effort to alleviate their grief.
Robert Wilson, the center’s assistant director for education services, said counselors met with HOVA residents immediately after Hussain’s death and held extra office hours at the center if students needed further consoling. The center is located at 2033 K St.
Wilson said the center has been able to adequately respond to the students who have sought counseling following Hussain’s death. He was unsure how many students have been to the center this week.
“It’s a higher number and more than usual considering the major event that happened,” he said.
Wilson added that the University distributed flyers in HOVA to provide information to students on dealing with loss.