By Charles Peckman
More than 100 community members gathered at the amphitheater outside the Iowa Memorial Union to remember Kamil Jackowski and Sean Wu, two University of Iowa students who died within a month of each other.
The candlelight vigil was hosted by leaders of UI Fraternity and Sorority Life — both Jackowski and Wu were members of
the greek community. The first-year students were Sigma Chi and Phi Kappa Theta members.
The sky was black, but the candles illuminated the night, just as so many of Jackowski’s and Wu’s friends said the two brightened their lives.
In addition to candles, a microphone was available for people to share stories about the two students.
Between speakers, mourners sat in silence in quiet remembrance. The only sound that could be heard was the wisk of the Iowa River.
Wu, who died on April 8 in Daum Residence Hall, and Jackowski, who died April 30 while at
Community members attend a vigil for University of Iowa freshman Kamil Jackowski and Sean Wu at the IMU outdoor amphitheater on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. Jackowski died Sunday morning at Sigma Chi’s formal at Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri and Wu was found intoxicated and unresponsive in his dorm room, he later died at the hospital. Friends and coworkers shared memories and prayers. (The Daily Iowan/Joseph Cress)
Sigma Chi’s formal at the Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri, were remembered by friends, family members, and other community members at the event.
Bill Wilding, a UI student who was close to Wu, said he has reflected on Wu’s life since his passing.
“You would always think something happens like this and you feel like s*** all day,” Wilding said. “There’s definitely that feeling, but when you’re talking to [Sean’s] friends and sharing laughs, you remember that Sean loved laughing. It’s a happy surprise.”
Wilding said he thought the candlelight service was a positive way to bring the UI community together.
“I don’t know who [was] there from both crowds; I didn’t know [Kamil], but I can relate to his friends and family,” Wilding said.
This sentiment of community was a thought shared by Wu’s brother, Austin.
Austin Wu heard about the vigil via a social-media post from a friend.
“I knew Sean was in a frat, but I don’t think he knew [Kamil],” Austin Wu said. “Because they were both in greek life, I can see why it was held by Fraternity and Sorority Life.”
Austin Wu added he feels sympathy for Jackowski’s friends and family and said he knows what that situation is like.
“It’s hard to state just how terrible it is,” Austin Wu said.
Although many showed up for the service, it is not the first event memorializing the two students.
Josh Kilgore, a UI senior and friend of Jackowski’s family, said Tuesday’s service — held for friends and family of Jackowski — at the Newman Catholic Student Center was an excellent way to bring people together following his death.
“As more people came forward about how much Kamil had touched their lives, it really resonated with how incredible of a guy he was,” Kilgore said. “Altogether, the service was able to show how much love for one person could be brought light. Kamil was an extraordinary friend to many, and we are so blessed to have had him in our lives.”
As of Wednesday night, a GoFundMe.com page created to help with Jackowski’s funeral costs had raised more than $50,000.
Interfraternity Council President Zach Rubenbauer addressed the community at Wednesday’s event, saying he never imagined having to go through something like this, but supporting each other is how to move forward.
“I just look around, I truly see that here are Iowa, we are one community, one family,” he said. “No matter what rivalries, whatever we may have said, everybody here is always here for one another.”