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UVa Students Put Politics Aside at Vigil for Sen. Deeds

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November 21, 2013

Students at the University of Virginia put politics aside Thursday night, organizing a vigil for State Senator Creigh Deeds.

Deeds was stabbed Tuesday by his son, Gus, who then took his own life, according to police.

While Deeds remained in good condition at UVa Medical Center Thursday night, students involved in College Republicans and University Democrats, along with other guests, held a candlelight vigil not far from the hospital to wish him a quick path to recovery.

"Recognizing a local representative, someone who serves us, is not a partisan issue," said Kate Gaziano, a member of College Republicans. "It's sad that it has to come to this, but I love to see the College Republicans and University Democrats coming together."

Dozens of students typically on either side of the aisle, stood side by side at the UVa Amphitheater as they offered prayers and well wishes to the senator.

"Our political groups are more than just that," said University Democrats member Haley Swartz. "We can come together for non-partisan things to show support for a legislator who's made a great difference in our lives."

The vigil gave students and others in the community a chance to show their appreciation for Deeds. Many signed a poster with well wishes to be delivered to him on Monday.

"We're thankful for his service and what will be his continued service as he makes a recovery," said Gaziano.

A statement read aloud on behalf of Deeds' good friend, Del. David Toscano, who could not attend, said Deeds is on his way.

"Sen. Deeds continues to improve day by day, and he intends to resume his role serving his constituents as quickly as he can," the statement said.

While they wait for Deeds to return to work, those who know him say the collaboration seen on UVa grounds Thursday is something he would be proud of.

"That reflects the kind of man he is," said Bob Fenwick, incoming Charlottesville City Council member. "His approach to politics is level and measured. It's a tremendous boost to see all you here tonight."

Students say it's a reminder that it doesn't always come down to the red and the blue.

"We see Washington and we see the divisiveness that's up in D.C., and it's nice to remember that there will always be a human base," said Swartz. "Besides all of the politics and all the policies we may disagree on, we can come together to remember and celebrate life."

The following statements were also read at the vigil:


Message from Del. David Toscano
On behalf of the Deeds family, I wish to offer their thanks for the outpouring of support, prayers and concerns during this challenging time. The family wishes to report that Senator Deeds continues to improve day-by-day and intends to resume his role serving his constituents as quickly as he can. The family hopes that citizens will respect their privacy as they grieve the loss of Gus and attempt to recover from the tragedy of Tuesday, November 19.

We join tonight to grieve, to pray, and to rededicate ourselves to helping our families, friends and neighbors, who experience pain in their lives and who need our support.

We grieve for the family of Gus Deeds -- his sisters, Amanda, Susie, and Rebecca; his mother, Pam; and his father, Creigh, and Creigh's wife, Siobhan. We pray, not only for them, but for Gus, a young man who was like many of you -- smart, capable, engaged in life, with so much promise before him. We struggle to comprehend what is impossible to understand. And we search for deeper meaning -- for the family and for ourselves.

We pray for the Deeds family, who so dearly loved Gus, and who struggled privately and mightily to help their son and brother in the face of obstacles that ultimately proved insurmountable. We pray that God gives Senator Deeds the strength to recover not just from physical wounds, but from the pain of this terrible loss.

We hope that the community -- local, state and national -- gives the Deeds family the space, respect, and privacy that they need during this difficult time.

This tragedy will be like so many others and become a public issue. I hope we can use it to dedicate ourselves to the task of improving a mental health system that failed this young man at a critical moment and requires careful attention so it will not fail others in the future. There may be a tendency to jump quickly to policy solutions -- and those may be necessary. But as we search for ways to improve things, let us remember that this is first and foremost a family tragedy, and let us respect the fact that they need to find their own way -- to find their own peace.

Thank you.

Message from Rep. Robert Hurt
At times such as these, mere words fail to express fully our profound empathy for Creigh and his family. He is such a gentle, good and decent person. Let us strive to match the passion he brings to his public service with our compassion for Creigh and all his loved ones.


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