After 10 Amistad St. morphed from an anonymous research laboratory to a media campground, after missing-person posters were plastered on campus and billboards hung above local highways, after the breathless television news reports and endless searches with bloodhounds, University President Richard Levin said the only thing that could be said: “This is as bad as it gets.”
Levin spoke softly on the telephone from his Woodbridge Hall office as reporters assembled outside on Saturday for a briefing from law enforcement officials. Twenty-four hours later, the authorities found a body in the Amistad Street building, presumed to be that of missing graduate student Annie Le GRD ’13.
It was news that this campus spent four days hoping not to hear, collectively holding its breath, hoping maybe, just somehow, this was a misunderstanding, a miscommunication, that Le would turn up safe and sound.
Instead, last night, the president stood on the first step of Woodbridge Hall, a folded sheet of paper in his hand, the same reporters gathered once again. Again, he spoke softly, pausing between words, shaking ever so slightly.
“Now,” he concluded, “is a time for compassion, for condolences and for coming together as a community.”
Afterward, Levin said that meeting with Le’s family was one of the hardest things he has ever had to do. The coming days and weeks will be no more bearable, especially for those in the medical school community, and especially many times over for Le’s family and friends. This is not something any person, any family, any community should have to go through. This is not something that should happen, at Yale or elsewhere.
There will be second-guessing — about whether the administration should have alerted the community sooner about Le’s disappearance, or why it took so long to find what is presumed to be her body, or whether steps should be taken to increase surveillance in Yale’s most sprawling facilities. We can only hope that Yale will become a safer place from the lessons learned in this tragic case, that something positive can come out of this horror.
The Rev. Jonathan Edwards once gave a sermon after the sudden death of a young person in his community. The death, he said, shows “what need you have to be determined concerning your hope, as it shows you how liable you are, suddenly and with but little warning, to be snatched out of the world.”
And so it befell Annie Le. A 24-year-old woman with endless promise is presumed dead, her body found on the day she was to marry. Most frightening is the fact that Le may have been killed by someone who walks among us, considering the basement of 10 Amistad St. is only accessible with a Yale keycard.
It is a tragedy, an unthinkable one, and nothing more can be said.
The authorities have refused to comment on what might have led to last week’s tragedy. Yale officials say more details will come out in the following days and that they have learned lessons from the botched investigation into the murder of Suzanne Jovin ’99. We all hope so.
But right now, the speculation that will fill dining halls and cable news shows over the days and weeks to come is of no gain. Rather, today, we mourn, for that is all we can do.