When native Memphian, Shannon Deal, the director of Student Health and Counseling Services at the University of Tennessee at Martin, heard and read about the violence that Memphis experienced last week, she wanted to support her hometown.
That heartfelt sentiment grew into a campus-wide show of support by UT Martin for the city and its sister university in Memphis.
On Friday, the UT Martin campus was invited to a memorial event at 9:01 a.m. for those who lost their lives in Memphis last week. Attendees had the opportunity to sign a banner that said, “Thinking of Our 901 Friends.”
“First and foremost, we want to extend our deepest condolences to the friends and families of the victims of the recent violent acts in Memphis,” Deal, who received her BSN degree from the UTHSC College of Nursing, said to those attending the memorial event. “Like many of you, I grew up in Memphis. Memphis is my hometown. I have colleagues, friends, and family who live in Memphis, and it has been very difficult to watch and read about what has happened there this past week.”
“Let’s honor the victims of violence, not just the victims of the recent violent acts in Memphis, but all victims of violence, by being a source of hope, by caring and supporting one another,” Deal continued. “If we let our light shine, perhaps we can be a positive influence, and perhaps we won’t have more gatherings like this one today.”
Fellow Memphian Jennifer Hart, clinical coordinator of counseling service at UT Martin, had the idea to send the banner to UTHSC.
Senior LaDarius Parson, who also is from Memphis, was planning to go to Memphis over the weekend to visit his family, and UTM Chancellor Keith Carver asked if he would bring it to the UTHSC campus.
So, at 3 p.m. Friday, he arrived at the Madison Plaza Building at UTHSC with the large banner. Parson said he felt “hurt, helpless, and mad,” watching the events of the week unfold. But he was happy to be the bearer of this symbol of hope.
Tiana Bridges and Krissy Mather, first-year occupational therapy students, had just finished an exam when they saw Parson with the banner in the Madison Plaza. “I think it’s really sweet and considerate,” Bridges said of the sentiment behind the banner. “It’s sweet to know some people are thinking of us.”
Mather, who is from California, said she came to UTHSC for the OT program and for Memphis, “I think it is pretty cool,” she said of the banner, adding that it is nice to see the campuses support each other.
Bud Grimes, vice chancellor for Communications and Marketing at UT Martin, contributed to this story.