After a heartbreaking loss to Tennessee and driving back home 4 hours tired and stewing over what had happened, I wake up the next day only to hear this:
October 28, 2007
University still awaiting confirmation from Ocean Isle Beach house fire
University of South Carolina administrators are still awaiting official confirmation from authorities in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., about the fate of students who were staying at a house that caught fire early Sunday morning.
Dr. Dennis Pruitt, the university's vice president for student affairs, said 13 students, including 12 from the university, were at the house. "Authorities have reported seven perished and we believe six of those were from the University of South Carolina," he said. "We need to wait, though, until we get confirmation from North Carolina."
University President Dr. Andrew Sorensen tried to express his grief by quoting a famous verse—"no man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent"—from 16th century Anglican priest and poet John Donne.
"If I may adapt that observation to the 21st century and the University of South Carolina," Sorensen said, "no Gamecock is an island. When any one member of our family is lost, every one of us is diminished. I'm profoundly saddened, as are all members of Gamecock Nation, by these tragic deaths."
The seventh fatality is believed to be a student at another university. Six individuals were treated at a local hospital and released.
Bodies have been sent for identification to the state medical examiner's office in Chapel Hill, N.C. Pruitt said North Carolina law enforcement officials have said it might take until Tuesday or Wednesday until a final identification is made.
Pruitt said Dr. Jerry Brewer, associate vice president for student life, had flown immediately to North Carolina on the university's plane to assist and counsel students and their families.
In addition, the university is providing counseling and assistance to students who have requested it as part of a network that includes advisers in residence halls and the Counseling and Human Development Center. Anyone in the university community who needs assistance should contact the counseling center at 803-777-5223 starting at 8:30 a.m. Monday.
Sorensen said counseling will be available as long as it is needed. He also said he would be meeting with campus clergy. "As a former Presbyterian minister, I meet regularly with campus chaplains, and I'm confident I'll be speaking with clergy and talking about how to pray in a united fashion for these families."
Pruitt said some of the students at the house were members of Delta Delta Delta sorority or Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity.
"We've spent a lot of time (counseling) with the students from the sorority and fraternity," he said. "We encourage any student who is just learning of the situation and is a member of Tri-Delt or SAE to contact their parents and let them know they're OK.
"It's a sad day for the University of South Carolina and for the parents of these children."
Pruitt said that classes would not be canceled. "Going back to normal, everyday activities may be the best way for some to mourn and grieve," he said. But he added that the university "would make sure any of the students most affected get what they need, whether it's counseling or if they need to leave for a day or two to be with their parents."
A memorial service has not been scheduled, he said. "I'm sure the university will plan an appropriate service at an appropriate time, once we have confirmation of details from North Carolina authorities and depending on the wishes of family and friends."What a jolt back to reality. Football is a game. This was most definitely not. Thoughts and prayers go out to the families of both schools!