Six University of Colorado students are holding a memorial service in honor of two friends, Brooke Riemer and Haley Hajek, who were killed in a car accident on Colo. 93 on Feb. 5.
Organizers said more than 150 students are expected to attend the service tonight in the University Memorial Center.
It has been nearly two weeks since the tragedy happened and many students said they haven’t found closure. They said they are hoping the memorial service will help.
“A lot of us haven’t ever lost a friend before,” said Kellie Livingstone, CU freshman and service organizer. “It’s a first for all of us.”
Both of the CU freshman’s funerals were out of state.
“Because most of us couldn’t attend the funerals, we’re hoping this will give us the peace of mind that we need to carry on and feel OK with it,” she said.
The service will begin with photo slide shows of both girls, paired with their favorite songs.
“They both loved music so much,” Livingstone said. “It was important for us to incorporate that somehow.”
Some of the girls’ close friends will take turns speaking. The podium will later be open to anyone who wants to share memories of Riemer and Hajek.
Paige Klumb, CU freshman and an organizer, has been a best friend to Riemer since kindergarten. She said the unexpected tragedy has made it difficult for her and other students to accept that their friends are gone.
“It just happened so fast,” Klumb said. “I don’t think it has hit me yet that I’m not going to see my best friend anymore. We came out here on an adventure together and now I’ll have to finish our adventure alone.”
Glenda Russell, psychologist at CU’s Counseling and Psychological Services Center, said planning a memorial service could help students cope with the tragedy by bringing them together.
“The organizers help the community to acknowledge the importance of the students who have died, to grieve their passing and to offer comfort and support to one another,” Russell said. “It is, at once, a sad and empowering ritual.”
While the service can help many, the grieving process is unpredictable and will be different for all students, Russell said.
“Haley and Brooke were our best friends here at CU,” said Cat Pastuhov, CU freshman and an organizer. “We just wanted to put together a service that everyone could attend, while providing an environment where anyone could share their stories and love for these two beautiful girls.”
The service is expected to draw a diverse crowd of students, faculty, staff and family.
Riemer’s mom and three sisters will also attend the service, Klumb said.
“Brooke’s family got a lot of messages from her friends in Boulder,” Klumb said. “They want to come meet the people who Brooke was close to here. I’m going to show them the Boulder that Brooke knew.”
Klumb said the service won’t be like a formal funeral — it will offer mainly happy memories of the girls and some laughs.
“(Riemer) would want it to be funny,” Klumb said. “She would not want people to cry. She would want to make people laugh. This is Brooke’s time and I want to do everything I can that she would want and I know she would want that.”
Livingstone said both girls will be remembered for their fun, outgoing personalities.
“There was no one else like Haley,” Livingstone said. “She would make friends with everyone she met and always spoke her mind. Her loving nature was infectious and with her not here anymore, many people feel the lack.”