Light from a hundred candles filled Market Square, casting a glow on the sombre faces of those who gathered to remember three young people who died early Saturday morning in a house fire on Johnson Street.
Underneath banners of flowers and birds, friends of Emily Morin, Mark Mitchell and Georgia Klap shared their gifts of music, speech and prayer at a memorial vigil Tuesday night. Young people with flowers in their hair carried votive candles and held onto each other, sharing their grief.
“Tragedies like this bring communities together. They bring love. They bring support. They also bring tears and heartache,” said Brea Segger, director of Pacific Rim College, where Morin went to school.
“This evening, we gather together to offer our love and support to one another, to the family and friends of Emily, Georgia and Mark.”
James Christian, a herbalist at the college, said although he only knew Morin for a few weeks, she was easy to remember because she was a model student who attended every class.
Morin came to the college with a background in horticulture, gardening, cooking, landscaping.
“She wanted to heal herself and heal those around her whom she loved,” he said.
The 20-year-old had a strong presence, friendly and kind. “A glow emanated from her.”
As the parents of Morin and Mitchell looked on, Christian remembered the two-hour conversation he with Morin on Friday, the last day of her life.
“I spoke to her about the things she was passionate about: her commitment to sustainability, her desire to heal others,” he said.
“She spoke about her family and she told me she had the best family, so supportive and loving. She enjoyed them and loved them very much.”
She also told Christian that in the 26-year-old Mitchell she had found a partner she truly loved.
“She will be very much missed, but never forgotten,” he said. “She has inspired us to be passionate about the things we love in life and to go after our dreams.”
David Caudwell, who also teaches at the college, said he was just beginning to know Morin and Mitchell, whose simple, radiant presence and delight in life stood out.
“Mark was quiet and reflective,” Caudwell said. “Mark was really intelligent, quick to listen, slow to speak. Emily carried with her a spirit of freshness and joy. She lit the place up.”
It was a pleasure to see them together, he said.
“They were just so happy.”
Klap’s friends spoke on behalf of her family, who were attending her wake.
She was remembered as a woman with many layers, an “old soul” in a young body. She had an immense mind and heart and a sense of social responsibility that inspired people to act.
Ryan Hilperts, who taught the 22-year-old at the University of Victoria and was one of her mentors at the Redfish School of Change, an environmental field school, remembered her in an email to the Times Colonist.
Last summer, he wrote, they spent six weeks canoeing, hiking, backpacking, learning and serving communities in the West Kootenays.
“Georgia wanted to create positive change in the world,” Hilperts wrote, adding that she was passionate about farming and bringing people together through art, music and story.
“She was the type to speak out on behalf of a group member that was having a bad day; she was fearless in sharing her concerns with the group.”
After volunteering with high school students in New Denver, Klap pulled Hilperts aside.
“Ryan,” he recalled her saying, “I have found what I love! I want to work with high school students!”
About a month ago, Klap talked to him about the work she was doing with the campus community gardens.
“She was so alive with the success of her work. We spent a while walking together talking about other projects she was hoping on starting in the fall… I was looking forward to being inspired by her vision and to taking joy in her successes for years to come,” Hilperts wrote.
“I am so heartbroken for the world that we have lost this beautiful soul; she will be dearly missed.”
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