The UCLA campus community filled Bruin Plaza on Thursday night to share messages of solidarity and healing in a candlelight ceremony honoring the memory of professor William Klug, who was shot and killed in his office a day earlier.
Students and members of the public listened to speakers and circled a growing memorial of flowers and hand-written messages placed at the Bruin statue. The crowd thronged into the plaza shortly after sunset and lined the second and third-floor walkways of the Wooden Center. The “Bruin Strong” vigil was organized by the Undergraduate Students Association Council and the Graduate Student Association. Professor Klug was a beloved member of the mechanical and aerospace engineering faculty.
“Let us illuminate the night with the unity and strength and perseverance of our Bruin family,” said Danny Siegel, student body president and third year political science major. “This is not an event we will quickly get over. It will take time to heal the sadness that has cloaked our campus, but we will heal it together. Let there always be light.”
The evening's messages were of gratitude and commendation for the first responders, and love and solidarity as the campus grieves and come to grips with the murder of a popular and promising young professor. Klug is survived by his wife and two children aged seven and nine.
Chancellor Gene Block and other speakers offered heartfelt condolences to Professor Klug’s family, especially his young children, and praised the campus community for its strength and commitment to one another.
“This is a great community,” Block said. “UCLA students, you are an incredible group of individuals, you give us strength. This is a sad moment but I am so proud of you.“
As the campus copes with the fragility of life and extends compassion toward the Klug family, Block said we must resolve as a society, and commit as individuals, to make a difference to address issues of violence and mental illness. “That is the only way we can make sense of tragedies like this,” he said.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti offered words of hope and conviction. “Stay open to the world,” he told students. “Don’t cower. Don’t be afraid. We can’t predict when moments happen like this, but we can determine how we respond to them. You responded beautifully and strongly yesterday, continue that strength.”
The mayor and city councilman Paul Koretz addressed the incongruity of Wednesday’s shooting occurring as the city was preparing to observe Gun Violence Awareness day on Thursday.
“Each and every day in this city and around this country we see too much violence, too many stories that we have to remember like Bill’s, too many families who have lost their loved ones,” Garcetti said. “The work that we can do to prevent even one tragedy is worth it.”
Visibly emotional, UCLA professor of radiology Daniel Ennis shared memories of his good friend, describing Klug as kind, gentle and compassionate—with a sincere enthusiasm for and commitment to teaching as well as a “legendary” scientific acumen.
He implored students and faculty to forge on in his memory.
“We will return to classrooms and offices and we will roll up our sleeves and we will work hard, using our minds to do amazing things,” Ennis said. “We will pull together to improve the human condition through the mastery of what is known and the exploration of what is unknown. Bill did exactly this.”
After the formal remarks and a moment of silence, students formed a “unity circle” in Bruin Plaza. Hands linked together; one by one they entered the circle’s center to share personal stories of where they were during the previous day’s events and how they coped with their fears during the campus lockdown. They urged each other to cling to appreciate life, offered prayers and thanked each other and the community at large for the outpouring of support. A student from the Campaign to Rethink Mental Health said it is time for not just policy changes, but cultural changes. She asked all those listening to commit to help build a culture of empathy and understanding.
Abel Rivera, who introduced himself as a first responder, played music in the plaza before the vigil began. “I feel your pain,” he said, promising to visit campus often to offer support and guidance as part of UCLA’s Counseling and Psychological Services, which will continue to offer counselors for students, faculty and staff.
Therapy dogs from the Office of Residential Life mingled with students and vigil attendees, who bent to pet and hug the animals.
Friday night at 8:30 p.m. there will be a relaxation space for studying and crafts in Kerckhoff Grand Salon sponsored by the Office of the Internal Vice President and the Transfer Student Representatives. On Friday at 4 p.m. the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science will hold a second vigil for Klug in the Court of Sciences. The public is welcome to attend.
Mayor Garcetti reflected on his personal relationship to the campus, having attended what is now the UCLA Lab School as an elementary student for seven years. He recalled UCLA as a place of peace and beauty.
“UCLA continues to represent that I know for each one of us,” he said. “It is a place where we can be open and free and learn and someone yesterday tried to rip that away from us. Nobody can."