As shock sank into grief on campus one day after the death of Branford College sophomore Andre Narcisse ’12, students gathered Monday night to remember their classmate, even while details surrounding his death remained unknown.
The Chief Medical Examiner’s Office in Farmington said Monday that though an autopsy was completed today, the results are pending further study. Yale Deputy Secretary Martha Highsmith said Monday that she had no information about the cause of Narcisse’s death.
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“We are all just waiting,” Highsmith said.
Still, hundreds of Yalies gathered in Branford’s main courtyard last night to mourn their departed friend, who speakers described as someone who always wore a smile and never hesitated to “just do it,” in the words of his former suitemate, Guillermo Peralta ’12.
The solemn silence of grievers and supporters as they filed toward the vigil was pierced only by the somber strains of a string quartet Monday night. And while the sky was dark, the courtyard glowed with the flicker of candles in the hands of students and administrators, including University President Richard Levin and Yale College Dean Mary Miller. Four of Narcisse’s friends — fellow Phillips Exeter Academy graduate Annie Pope ’13, close friend Jonah Quinn ’12 and former suitemates Adam Thomas ’12 and Peralta — shared memories and lessons they learned from Narcisse.
Quinn, who spoke last, said his friend was always curious.
“You could never stop learning when you were around him,” Quinn added. “He was in love with every moment he experienced.”
Thomas noted his former suitemate’s “vivacity” and the intensity with which Narcisse engaged in conversation. Peralta agreed, describing the immediate ease he felt upon meeting Narcisse his freshman year. He said his former suitemate was the one to break the ice during their first night together on campus.
“He said, ‘Guys, we need to go out,’ ” Peralta recalled.
Shaken by Sunday’s news that Narcisse’s suitemates had found him unresponsive in his dorm, some of Narcisse’s friends dealt with their grief by writing on Narcisse’s Facebook profile and making plans to wear blue clothing Tuesday in his honor.
“There’s a lot of grief,” Branford Master Steven Smith told the News Monday. “Even people who didn’t know him kind of knew him.”
Smith added that the overwhelming feeling in Branford is shock, and that those who did not know Narcisse personally are still “deeply shocked” that this could happen to one of their peers.
Josh Howard ’12, who attended Exeter with Narcisse, said in an e-mail Sunday that calling mutual friends to tell them of Narcisse’s death was difficult — “not only on account of the exceptionally depressing nature of the news,” Howard explained, “but also because of the paradox associated with trying to explain to someone that such a vibrant and charismatic human being was no longer with us.”
Smith said he expects there will be a memorial service soon but that he had not discussed the matter with members of Narcisse’s family, some of whom were present Monday night.
For now, Miller said Monday that administrators plan to make both professional and informal support available and to “take time to grieve and to acknowledge that it takes time to do so.” Levin said in a phone interview Monday night that Narcisse’s friends have the Yale community’s support.
As the vigil drew to a close after about 25 minutes, students participated in a moment of silence before congregating in the Branford common room for refreshments. As family members received guests, friends and acquaintances signed their names in books placed around the room and shared their thoughts about Narcisse.
In his remarks Monday night, Quinn said people often have the impulse to “move forward” after a tragic event. But he urged attendees to learn from Narcisse and always to ask questions. “If anything, we should move upwards,” Quinn said.