One snip at a time, the black veils that covered 10 columns on the University of Virginia's historic Rotunda fell to the ground late Friday afternoon. They had been installed last week to honor the memory of Yeardley Love, the Cockeysville woman and lacrosse player killed in her off-campus apartment last spring.
As he watched fellow students and school employees cut down the fabric, fourth-year architecture student A.J. Artemel said the coverings had represented "a re-examination of the past events," and removing them symbolized "the restoration of hope" on a campus traumatized by violence.
Nearly five months after Love, 22, was found face down by her roommates and police, and prosecutors later accused a fellow student of beating her to death, the university held a "Day of Dialogue" that included public ceremonies and private discussions focusing on preventing such a tragedy from recurring.
As first-year President Teresa A. Sullivan told the audience during an opening event: "We want to channel our grief into energy and use that energy into building a stronger, more unified community." She later acknowledged "that we have to wonder if we might have done something differently."
After the death of Love, a graduate of Towson's Notre Dame Preparatory School, friends and teammates shared tales of violent outbursts by her former boyfriend, Virginia men's lacrosse player George Huguely V, 22. He has been charged with first-degree murder in the death, and is being held without bond. On Friday, a judge agreed to move a preliminary hearing in his case from next month to Jan. 21.
The school has instituted a policy requiring students to report arrests or convictions before gaining access to the university's computer system. Huguely was arrested in 2008 in Lexington, Va., for public drunkenness and resisting arrest, but school officials never learned of the incident.
Additionally, a student-led initiative called "Let's Get Grounded" hopes to encourage students to intervene if they feel a friend or classmate is being harassed or threatened.
Those leading the initiative wore T-shirts Friday bearing the words "Recognition, React, Respect."
Danielle MacGregor, a fourth-year student from Bristol, Va., who helped start the program, said the school's honor code should give incoming students a sense of "a shared responsibility in the community. We are trying with this open dialogue to tap into that and have a commitment to one another."
Classes went on as scheduled Friday, but many students opted to take part in discussions held throughout the day. A morning program was titled, "Am I My Sister's/Brother's Keeper?" One in the afternoon was called "Are We a Caring Community?"
Brian Troung, a second-year student from Richmond, Va., was skeptical when he walked into the morning session.
"I didn't think it would be too substantial in meaning," Troung said. "But after sitting through it and talking about everyone's experiences with intervention and dealing with stories of depression and things like that, it was really good to let that emotion out."
Troung said that there is a different atmosphere on campus since his return this year.
"There's a more proactive approach," Troung said. "I think the community needed something like this [day] to help prevent the things that happened last year."
The column shrouds were the inspiration of Sanda Iliescu, an art and architecture professor who has lived in the Charlottesville area for 10 years. The project also included brightly colored ballot boxes placed around The Lawn in the middle of campus allowing people to share regrets of the past year and hopes for the future.
As she walked across The Lawn to where the black veils fluttered slightly in a gentle, warm breeze, Iliescu said she didn't mind that the veils were up for only a little over a week.
"I wanted something temporary and dramatic," she said, adding that it "made sense" for the fabric to come down Friday.
Love was one of seven Virginia students or others affiliated with the school to die in the past year. Morgan Harrington, a Virginia Tech student, disappeared after attending a concert on the Virginia campus. Her body was found in a wooded area near the campus in January, but no arrests have been made.
"Yeardley Love's death was national news. For many others, their deaths received little attention," said Sullivan, the school president. "We gather for those people, too."
Within hours after police were called to Love's apartment May 3, they arrested Huguely, who grew up in Chevy Chase, attended the Landon School in Bethesda and who had dated Love for more than a year. The two were to graduate two weeks later. Love received her degree posthumously.
During a hearing Friday in a Charlottesville courtroom, where the preliminary hearing date was changed, a judge denied a local TV station's request to allow television cameras and still photography in the courtroom.
Judge Robert Downer said that while he typically allowed cameras in his courtroom and that having them for this case "is not going to abate the media frenzy," he thought their presence at a preliminary hearing could affect potential jurors.
Downer said he would not want to see the trial moved to another jurisdiction as a result.
"This community should have the right to judge for itself," Downer said.