Members of the University of Maine community, including students and faculty, came together Tuesday night for a memorial service for David Cheney, Marcelo Rugini and 2011 alumnus William “B.J.” Hannigan, all of whom were members of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.
The fraternity members died on the afternoon of Nov. 16 in a plane crash at the Knox County Regional Airport in Owls Head.
The memorial service took place in Hauck Auditorium, which was filled nearly to its capacity of 514 people by members of the UMaine community.
After the service, which included speeches from Lambda Chi Alpha brother Thomas Green and Dean of Students Dr. Robert Dana, a candlelight vigil was held on the Mall in front of Fogler Library.
“It is uncommon to find someone that causes you to better yourself by their sheer presence,” Green said. “But the Beta chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha found three such individuals. . . . They stand as an everlasting example of what a man should be and what qualities they should possess.”
The day of the crash will “stand as a day marred by sadness and tragedy,” Green said. “It is important in times like these to not be completely overcome by sadness and grief, but to rise up and realize what these men have left behind.”
He then shared some funny memories about Cheney, Rugini and Hannigan, which lightened the somber mood, if only for a moment.
“They can put a smile on anyone’s face,” Green said, “be it for Cheney’s horrible stand-up comedy routine; Marcel’s speaking incorrect English, and then arguing it is valid; or B.J. paying brothers to dress him for his first date because he was too stressed to accomplish the task himself.”
On behalf of his fraternity, Green expressed gratitude for the support from UMaine and peers.
“The brothers of Lambda Chi Alpha have shown that they can persevere, even in the face of adversity, and the University of Maine has shown us that we are not alone,” Green said. “It is hard to put into words how thankful the brothers truly are for all the support we have received from the University of Maine. . . . In the past weeks, the outpouring of support from the Greek community as a whole has been truly amazing. You have proved that we are in fact a community and none of us stand alone. And for that the brothers of Lambda Chi Alpha are eternally thankful.”
To conclude his speech, Green recited “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep,” a poem by Mary Elizabeth Frye he felt fit the occasion.
“Do not stand at my grave and cry / I am not there; I did not die,” the poem ended.
Dana spoke next about the outpouring of support for the students from the UMaine community.
“It’s . . . a testament to these three young lives to see Hauck Auditorium filled to capacity here tonight,” Dana said.
Earlier that day Dana said he spoke to University of Maine President Paul Ferguson, who was out of town and not able to attend the memorial: “[Ferguson’s] grief was palpable.”
Dana said he had been in contact with the families of the students, and they appreciated the support from UMaine.
“One of the things David Cheney’s mother asked me to do was to give everyone here tonight a big hug, so I want all of you in this room to consider yourselves hugged by the dean,” he said.
After a moment of silence to “consider the gravity of what lies before us,” he gave his condolences to the brothers of Lambda Chi Alpha and commended them for their response to the accident.
He also recognized the impact they had on the UMaine community and on everybody they met.
“These guys have been here for years. They knew people in disparate colleges around the campus, different departments,” Dana said. “They worked in different places. They were loved up and down the coast of Maine. They were loved on different continents and there are many people today grieving a loss far too early.”
Dana also spoke about living life to the fullest.
“We live lives believing that it won’t happen,” he said. “And sometimes when we live our lives so insulated, so isolated from what could potentially be a reality, we don’t live life adequately at all. . . Now I would say in these guys’ case, they lived life quite adequately.”
Dana then talked about dealing with grief, saying it is part of growing up.
“This is part of being an adult, that we have to contend with loss,” he said. “And the only way to do it well is to take something from the loss — that is, to live your lives well — and learn to contend with the loss.”
Dana ended his speech asking for another moment of silence, asking everybody in attendance to ask themselves, “What did [Hannigan, Cheney and Rugini] expect of us? What do you think their hopes were for us?”
After the service, everybody in attendance was asked to take a candle from the hallway outside of Hauck Auditorium and gather in front of the projection screen set up in front of Fogler Library. Once everybody was outside, attendants assisted each other to light candles.
A video slideshow that featured photos of Cheney, Rugini and Hannigan spending time with friends, participating in events with Lambda Chi Alpha and having fun, was set against emotional music. There were also photos of lit candles at the Lambda Chi Alpha house, one for each of the deceased brothers.
At the end of the vigil, attendees were instructed: “In the spirit of love, we extinguish our candles and reflect.”