What it feels like to lose someone in your community

A tribute to Haruka Weiser

Losing someone in your community is hard. It’s really heavy, even if you didn’t know them personally. You catch yourself thinking, ¬†what if you had known them?

And then you hear stories from their friends, laughing about past memories and reminiscing on their friendship. You get a real sense of who this person was.

For me, the first thought that popped into my mind this week was that I felt attacked; I felt an attack on the place I call home, the place I live and work everyday.

Haruka Weiser was a profound member of the Theatre and Dance community. She was taken away from her home and from her friends. Immediately, I felt a duty to protect those in my community, both in the Theatre and Dance department and the UT campus as a whole. The people who walk among UT grounds everyday are my friends, my classmates, my sorority sisters, my professors, my family of fellow Longhorns. And walking among the UT grounds like a normal student would on a normal night, Haruka wound up as an unexpected tragedy.

Others who are in my position, not having known Haruka personally, but also feeling a sense of protection, felt the need to foster safe precautions for our community to follow when walking on campus grounds late at night. It makes you feel as though you have some sort of control over the current situation. You might not have known Haruka personally, but you can rest easier knowing you might save someone else’s life.

The next emotion I felt was just to be there. Be there for Haruka’s friends and the Theatre and Dance community, especially the dancers. I remember being at her memorial ceremony on campus and seeing so many dismal, weeping faces. I hugged every single person I could, staying strong and being someone they could lean on. I abundantly felt the tears of strangers on my cheek and the mournful cries I heard will be sounds I will never forget. I still get chills reflecting on the aftermath of the ceremony.

When I learned the suspect had been arrested and read the details of his attack that night on Sunday, April 3rd, it all hit me. Suddenly, I didn’t feel strong anymore. Everyone will grieve differently based on their relationship with Haruka, but for me – as someone who didn’t know her personally – I stayed strong for those who needed me to be until finally I needed to grieve, too.

I know Haruka was a bright soul with a big future ahead of her. No one deserves to go through what she did. No one. Her death signified an incredible loss in the Theatre and Dance department. We both lived and worked, and played in the same department; I am sure we crossed paths. And maybe one day we will cross paths again, and we will meet, and I will get to experience the life and beauty of her soul that so many people did.

So here is to Haruka’s family. Here is to Haruka’s friends. Here is to Haruka’s advisors, her counselors, her teachers, her acquaintances, her dance community, the theatre community, and to those who didn’t know her, but are grieving, too. Know that I am here for you and that I am with you every step of the way. May we come together in support and solidarity as one, while we mourn together this missing piece of our community. May Haruka Weiser’s soul rest in peace.

UT Austin