Hundreds of mourners gathered Wednesday at the University of South Carolina to remember seven college students who were killed last month when a beach house caught fire while they celebrated the end of the season’s warm weather.
Six wreaths dedicated to the USC students bore a single red flower. A seventh wreath was decorated in purple and orange in tribute to the Clemson University student who also died in the Oct. 28 blaze.
“We have now had seven funerals,” said Dennis Pruitt, vice president for student affairs at USC. “Still, we find we have an ache in our hearts that just won’t leave. But we must carry on. Folding our losses into our own lives, we must each return our focus to living.”
The students were killed in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. Most were avid Gamecock football fans and had been watching college football that weekend.
Authorities have ruled the fire accidental and said a discarded cigarette or other smoking materials may have caused the fire. Six students survived.
South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford said the tragedy evoked questions without answers.
“What I do know is there’s a loving God out there who creates and brings purpose to every good and bad thing in this lifetime,” Sanford said.
Students at the memorial wore the school colors, garnet and black. Some wore ribbons and each was handed a black sticker emblazoned with the school seal and “Forever to Thee,” the last line of the university’s alma mater.
The six survivors and victims’ family members were in attendance, Pruitt said.
After the memorial, the families planned to attend a reception hosted by the Delta Delta Delta sorority and the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. Many of the victims and survivors were members of the organizations.
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