Service of Remembrance

Approximately 1,200 people gathered in Founders Hall on March 12, 2008, for a Service of Remembrance one year after the baseball team bus accident in Atlanta, Ga., which claimed the lives of seven individuals, five of which were Bluffton University student-athletes.

One yearService of Remembrance

Opening remarks
Dr. James M. Harder, president

March 12, 2008

On behalf of Bluffton University, I welcome you to this evening's Service of Remembrance.  Your presence here is important to us.  It connects to our shared memory of pain and loss resulting from the bus accident last March 2 in Atlanta.  One year ago tonight, we gathered here in Founders Hall for a memorial service that marked the loss of seven lives.

This evening we gather as a Bluffton community of remembrance:  families and friends of Zachary, David, Scott, Cody and Tyler; players and coaches of the 2007 and 2008 Bluffton baseball teams, and student coach Tim Berta and his family.  Also with us are friends from AirTran who have come from Atlanta to participate in this service.  These friends represent many from that outstanding city who cared for us when we needed it most, and who continue to care. 

"There is no doubt that through this past year we have all been touched by God's love - God's love expressed through the hands of others. As we read in Exodus, we have been carried on eagles' wings."


Earlier this afternoon, the families, friends and team members participated in the dedication of the permanent Circle of Remembrance, located adjacent to Bluffton University Memorial Field.  Its open semi-circular wall, five stone benches, and five Crusader Hawthorne trees create a strong visual reminder of the five Bluffton student-athletes we remember.  And each spring, as the baseball season unfolds on the adjoining field, those trees will produce an abundance of bright white flowers.  The centerpiece sculpture, Touching Home, by Bluffton faculty artist Gregg Luginbuhl, symbolizes the deep and enduring bonds and memories that will long continue to hold this community of remembrance together.  Those physical memorial projects the Circle of Remembrance and the Memorial Field will surely stand for years to come as a testament to this community's shared experience last spring, and to the restorative acts of love from friend and stranger that sustained us throughout this year.

We gather tonight to acknowledge the pain that we have experienced, but more importantly, to name God's goodness and faithfulness even in the midst of great sorrow.  This evening, we want to reflect on the rich memories that this community will carry forward good memories of Zachary, David, Scott, Cody and Tyler, who as Bluffton students enjoyed life to the fullest, who each in his own way demonstrated an ethic of care for others, and who each showed so much promise for a life that was not to be.

Last year, at the memorial service, I expressed the Bluffton community's faith in God.  I reflected that lament can once again give way to hope, joy and love, and that we can understand even death as a light in the darkness.  There are still many things we don t understand, and probably never will.  But there is no doubt that through this past year we have all been touched by God's love God's love expressed through the hands of others.  As we read in Exodus, we have been carried on eagles wings.  We know that our journey of healing will not ever fully end, but we are comforted in the knowledge that God's love and care for us is eternal.

This Service of Remembrance includes the contributions of Bluffton students, faculty and staff.  We offer this service of remembrance to the families and friends of Tyler, Cody, Scott, David and Zachary, to members of the 2007 baseball team, and to all those who have shared in the losses and journey of healing this past year.  The memories we hold in common will long stay with us.

Now, please join me in prayer:

Loving and eternal God,

We gather here in your presence, trusting in you and seeking your comfort.  We gather as a Bluffton community still hurting from all we have endured, still missing the broad smiles and warm touch of those who we lost--fine teammates, classmates, roommates and friends.

Lord, tonight we ask that you touch each of us with your love in the form of rich and abundant memories.  Memories of youth, of strong bodies, of nurtured discovery, of spiritual development and of athletic achievement.  Memories of touching home.  We rejoice in fond memories of relationships and of life lived to its fullest, and of the deep bonds that tie families, teams and communities together bonds that will stand the test of time.

Lord, you have given us your assurance that nothing is lost forever, that love is stronger than death and that love will always remain.  We rejoice in that certainty tonight at this service of remembrance.

In Christ's name we pray,