CHESTERTOWN, MD—A bell usually rung for victories on the athletic field tolled a sad loss today as the Washington College community gathered at noon for a somber outdoor service in memory of classmate, student and friend Aaron L. Taylor. A junior from Maryland and Texas who focused his studies on neuroscience, Taylor died Monday night in his residence-hall room. Police who investigated say the death appeared to be a suicide.
The midday service drew some 500 students, staff and professors, overflowing the square and spilling onto walkways and lawn. It began with a minute of silence followed by a minute of tolling from the campus “Victory Bell” located by Cain Gymnasium.
“For those of you who knew Aaron as a classmate and friend, you should reflect on the good times you shared,” said President Mitchell Reiss. “Cherish those memories. For those of you who did not know Aaron, all you need to know is that he was a classmate, a member of our Washington College community, a fellow student. He was one of us.
“Aaron’s death tests us,” Reiss continued. “But seeing all of you gathered here today, I’m reminded again that we are a community of people who care about each other, who are considerate of each other, who help each other. That is what close-knit families do. That is what we will do during this difficult time.”
Sara Holben, pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Chestertown, also spoke of the need to be present and reach out for others. As a bald eagle soared in the blue sky over the Casey Academic Center, she spoke of suicide as “the fierce goodbye” that tears at our hearts, memories and faiths. “There is fierceness to the emotions we feel as they swing from shock to grief, from hurt to anger, from guilt to accusations, from acceptance to judgment, and then to turn around and start all over again. It is the way it happens sometimes for a long time to come,” she said.
“The task that lies ahead is to be present for each other, to accept what we are feeling, to accept what you need to say and feel, and to reach out to support those who may feel lost and alone. And that leaves us where we should always be,” she said, “with hearts broken but full of love, remembering the whole of Aaron’s life and remembering and celebrating and giving thanks for all the things that made him who he was.”
Aaron Taylor came to Washington College from Chesapeake High School in Pasadena, Md. He was a double major in psychology and biology with a concentration in neuroscience, and he enjoyed theater and the performing arts. Aaron worked in the catering division of Dining Services where he was well liked and valued. “He was one of my best student workers, and always had a sunny disposition,” says Zena Maggitti, the director of Dining Services. “You knew you were going to have good day when you saw Aaron.”
His faculty advisors describe him as a young man who asked insightful questions and participated actively in classroom discussions. “He was usually outgoing and funny, and I will really miss him,” says one professor.
By sad coincidence, a candlelight vigil was already planned for Tuesday evening in downtown Chestertown’s Fountain Park to mark World Suicide Prevention Day. Interim dean of students Sarah Feyerherm encouraged anyone interested in participating to meet at 7:20 p.m. in Martha Washington Square and walk to the 7:45 p.m. vigil together as group.