Friends, family and community members gathered on the steps of Hovde Hall Wednesday night to celebrate the lives of Joshua Deboer and Joseph Neuzerling, the two students who died in last week’s plane crash.
Candles lined the cement barriers of the Engineering Mall, which held up framed photos of both students. The Purduettes, though not scheduled to perform, came on their own time and sang three pieces for the service. The event was organized by the pair’s loved ones and dozens of people gathered at sunset to pay homage to them.
The families of both men attended the service but did not speak. Sally Downham Miller, an administrator in the West Lafayette School District and grief counseling speaker, assured attendees that their grief will be overcome.
“The pain will ease,” she said, reassuringly. “The connection is forever. That love never dies.”
Twelve of Deboer’s and Neuzerling’s best friends stood together and told stories of both students, often reminiscing of when they met and how their relationships developed over their engineering classes.
Justin Lindley, a junior in the College of Engineering, spoke about how he knew Deboer and Neuzerling were special the first day he met them.
“I knew them for the entirety of my three years here at Purdue,” Lindley said. “I learned quickly that they were going to be some of my best friends.”
Others reminisced about specific memories of engineering classes and how both Deboer and Neuzerling helped them with homework and calmed their worries. Megan Morrison, a senior in the College of Engineering, worked with both Deober and Neuzerling on engineering projects and said she was always thankful to have both around.
“Joe always listened to all my problems,” Morrison said, “and Josh always had a knack for the finer things in life.”
Everyone who spoke reflected the men’s intelligence and their gifts of strong personalities and passion for their work. Nicholas Kwolek, a senior in the College of Engineering and roommate of Deboer, was one of the last people to speak.
“They wanted to be engineers because they wanted to make the world a better place,” Kwolek said. As he closed his speech, Kwolek challenged everyone to live in his friends’ memories.
“The world lost a lot of talent last week,” he said, “and now it is up to us to make up for that.”