Last Wednesday, members of the Trinity community gathered outside of Calvert Hall in memoriam of Corey Byrnes, a first year who passed away one year ago.
Byrnes and four other first year students Claire Alford, Andrew Harrington, Sarah Billman and Hannah Ventola were involved in a car crash on the 1000 block of East Olmos Drive. Byrnes died at the scene and the four other students were hospitalized with a range of injuries.
In honor of Byrnes, a bench outside of Calvert Hall was selected to memorialize his life and time at Trinity.
David Tuttle, associate vice president and dean of students, began the ceremony.
“What an incredible honor it is for us as a campus to celebrate their lives in these tangible memorials that reflect how much they mattered to us too. When we pass this spot and when you come back to visit as alumni, you will reflect on Corey, his life, and your grief and how they are inseparable and permanent,” Tuttle said.
The class of 2018 alumni sponsor, Leni Kirkman, read from an essay that Byrnes wrote in high school. The essay spoke of Byrnes’ outlook on life and living in the moment.
“I don’t want to stand here putting words in the mouth of your dear friend Corey, but I’m pretty sure he’s left us a good recipe for living: putting aside the pains of the past, and our worries for the future and finding happiness in the present. Easy to say, much harder to do, but I think that is what I will try to do each time I come sit on Corey’s bench,” Kirkman said
Stephen Nickle, university chaplain, said a prayer in honor of Byrnes.
“We gather on this anniversary of his death feeling a mixture of sadness and glad memories. We gather to dedicate this bench in Corey’s memory, to mark in an explicit way our gladness at having journeyed a piece with him, and our sadness at his death. Lord, this memorial bench created a space of rest and encounter: of shared laughter, of honest argument, or trusting vulnerability, all of which were precious to those who knew Corey, all of which are precious to each of us in many other friendships,” Nickle said.
Jennifer Henderson, chair of the communication department and class of 2018 class marshal, taught Byrnes in a first year seminar course.
“Corey was a student in my first year seminar “˜Women and Technology in Media’. This is a course he didn’t really expect to be taking, but one he was game to dive into. I can see Corey on the left side of the classroom, five seats down,” Henderson said.
Matt Jones, Byrnes’ former roommate, spoke fondly of their time together.
“I can’t thank Trinity enough for giving me Corey as my roommate and one of my best friends. He was the nicest person that I may have ever met. He genuinely cared about each and every person around him including everyone here today,” Jones said.
Jones said they learned from each other while living together.
“Corey was beyond brilliant and taught me and countless others many things whether it involved calculus, Call of Duty, throwing a Frisbee, taste in music and everything else. I think of him and miss him every day as I’m sure you all do too,” Jones said.
To conclude the ceremony, Trinity students Megan Zirkle and Greg Labbe sang a song with Labbe played the guitar.
Tuttle recalled that Trinity has lost other students before.
“Unfortunately, we have lost students and young alumni before. If you walk this campus you will see their memorials. For all of these young people, their friends and families felt it was important to have a marker, somewhere here that expressed that these young people lived here, learned here, studied here, played here and mattered here,” Tuttle said.
Speakers recalled happy memories of Byrnes, who laughed often and easily, according to friends, family and professors.
“I can see him raising his hand anytime we talked about video games or movies. When I remember Corey, all of the snapshots are of him laughing. Laughing with his friends, laughing at my inability to get the computer projector to work again, laughing at himself. Corey laughed a lot. He laughed easily and sometimes for not outward reason at all,” Henderson said.
Jones said having Byrnes as a roommate was a blessing.
“Corey, you have and always will be deeply missed. Thank you for blessing me and everyone else who knew you,” Jones said.