BYU students remember Harambe in candlelight vigil

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Students braved the snow and cold to gather in mourning and reminiscence of a fallen comrade: Harambe, the Cincinnati Zoo’s deceased Western lowland gorilla.

Harambe fans gathered in the courtyard of the Village at South Campus in Provo on Nov. 28, six months to the day of Harambe’s untimely death. Though Harambe died six months ago, his legacy lives on through an unlikely cult following and countless internet memes and tweets.

BYU freshman Carter Shelley attended the vigil with a self-made tombstone for Harambe. He and his roommates have a shrine to Harambe in their apartment. (Ryan Turner)
BYU freshman Carter Shelley attended the vigil with a self-made tombstone for Harambe. He and his roommates have a shrine to Harambe in their apartment. (Ryan Turner)

BYU freshman Carter Shelley, from Kaysville, Utah, attended the vigil with candle and tombstone in tow. When he first moved into freshman housing, Shelley said Harambe created a bond between him and his roommates; they even have a shrine to the deceased gorilla in their dorm.

“We’re all very vigilant with our beloved Harambe,” Shelley said.

And Shelley wasn’t nervous to attend the event attended by people whom he didn’t know.

“I knew that I’d be coming to people who shared this love for Harambe,” Shelley said. “It’s common ground.”

Humanities senior and St. George native Noah Davis helped salvage the Facebook event after it was canceled due to weather. Davis also noted the shared community Harambe created in 2016.

Ryan Turner
BYU humanities senior Noah Davis organized the event after it was canceled due to weather. (Ryan Turner)

“He really captured the generation of irony and memes,” Davis said. “He died but kept getting lived on. The internet would resurrect him.”

Davis gave a eulogy at the beginning of the vigil, citing the pains of 2016 and the pure, uncorrupted face of Harambe. During the eulogy someone from a window above made gorilla noises. “He lives on!” a bystander remarked. The eulogy was then followed by 30 seconds of silence, the hymn “God Be with You Till We Meet Again,” Harambe chants and raising candles and Sodalicious cups.

Ryan Turner
Mikelle Torgesen holds candles and laughs with friends at Harambe’s candlelight vigil. (Ryan Turner)

Family life junior Mikelle Torgesen, from Boulder City, Nevada, attended the vigil with roommates.

“An animal has made such a big impact,” Torgesen said. “It’s interesting to see what social media has done to inflate that and make it known.”

It may be six months later, but it doesn’t look like the Harambe craze is ending anytime soon.

“We want to believe in something,” Davis said. “It turned into something sincere and we could feel something again. Everyone loves a martyr.”

Students gather at the Village at South Campus to remember Harambe's life. (Ryan Turner)
Students gather at the Village at South Campus to remember Harambe’s life. (Ryan Turner)