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October 26, 2008 – A Sad Day in UCA History

Dear Friends,

We are quickly approaching the ninth anniversary of the worst tragedy to take place on the UCA campus.

On October 26, 2008, the UCA community suffered an unprecedented tragedy.  Two UCA students, Chavares Block, 19, and Ryan Henderson, 18, were gunned down and killed while standing outside Arkansas Hall, a UCA residence hall.  The two innocent victims were shot by non-students who were firing from an SUV.  The shooter, Kelcey Perry, 19, of Morrilton, is being held by the Arkansas Department of Corrections, and will be eligible for parole in 2035.

Word of the tragedy spread quickly and soon the UCA shooting made national news headlines.  An outpouring of sympathy resulted and letters and cards from around the nation soon began arriving at UCA.  Some of those expressing sympathy were the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, Arkansas Tech University, Hendrix College and Northern Illinois University

The students at Northern Illinois University (NIU) created a banner, made of heavy cloth material, that was approximately five feet long and three feet wide, and covered in words of sympathy and encouragement from NIU students.  NIU had been the scene of a murderous rampage on February 14, 2008, when a gunman killed five people and injured 16 with gunfire from a shotgun and three handguns.  Some of the comments from NIU students included, “Huskies feel your pain.  You are in our thoughts;”  “We know what you’re going through.  Our thoughts and prayers are with you;”  “I’m sorry that this is how we have become united, but we’re here for you;” and, “Huskies give UCA Bear hugs.”

Students, faculty and staff from Hendrix College also created a banner. The Hendrix banner is very large at four feet wide and twelve feet long and has the same type of messages as the banner from NIU.  The Hendrix banner was signed by several hundred people.

The University of Washington Graduate and Professional Student Senate observed a moment of silence for UCA’s Chavares Block and Ryan Henderson as well as for one of their own students who was gunned down in 2007, Rebecca Jane Griego.  The University of Arkansas at Little Rock Student Government Association also held a moment of silence for Chavares Block and Ryan Henderson at one of their meetings.  The university that sent the most letters of sympathy was UCA’s longtime rival, Arkansas Tech University (ATU).

The students from NIU drove to Conway and delivered their condolence banner during the halftime of a football game.  NIU also held a candlelight vigil for the UCA Community, two days after the shooting on October 28.  One of the students involved with organizing the candlelight vigil was Justin Kuryliw, who I now consider a friend.  Justin recently sent me the video of the vigil held by NIU and it is at the end of this article.  The video turns green on occasion, but, continue watching until it times out at two minutes and forty seconds.  The quality of the video is not the greatest, it was made at night, but it was an emotional experience for me.

Starting on October 16th and ending on October 27th, the UCA Archives will display all the materials held in the M08-09 Block/Henderson Collection.  Visitors to the UCA Archives will be able to read the letters written to UCA students and see the two large banners and the touching comments made by those at Hendrix College and NIU.

The link below is the video of the NIU candlelight vigil that was held for Ryan Henderson,  Chavares Block and the Bear Nation, on October 28, 2008.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoJ6YzdIrM8

Sincerely,
Jimmy