Hundreds gathered at sunset Sunday on the front steps of Beaverton's Arts & Communication Magnet Academy in remembrance of Haruka Weiser, the Portland teenager killed earlier this month on the University of Texas campus.
"Tonight, we focus on those elements of Haruka's life that distinguished her, not the circumstances of her passing," Principal Michael Johnson said to a crowd of classmates, teachers, parents and friends. "Collectively, let's define the descriptors of her light, Haruka's light, as she illuminated and enhanced the earthbound experience of all of us privileged to know her."
As pink and yellow ribbons tied to branches fluttered in the breeze and votives in hanging mason jars flickered in the air, people shared memories of Weiser, reminiscing on her adventurous and lighthearted spirit, infectious smile and warmth.
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"If we were a sweater, Haruka would be the string that held us all together," said friend Marina Neal, 19. "She was the most beautiful, passionate person I ever met. Without her in this world, everything seems a little more gray, a little more limp and a little less full of life. ... You should remember her for the beautiful, wonderful soul she was."
Jill Starling, a counselor at the school, shared a statement from the Weisers, including her parents and siblings, who were in attendance.
"Our family is so grateful for all the love and care shown during this time," Starling read. "Thank you for your love."
Weiser was a 2015 graduate of the Arts & Communications Magnet Academy and was a talented dancer and member of Dance West, a student dance troupe that performs with the Oregon Symphony a few times a year. She attended the University of Texas on a full dance scholarship.
As the final rays of sunlight crept beneath the horizon, Weiser's family and close friends released white dove-shaped balloons into the breeze.
The 18-year-old was killed April 5 while walking on the campus of the University of Texas, where she was a freshman. Weiser's body was found in a creek near the Austin university's football stadium. Meechaiel Criner, a homeless 17-year-old, has been charged in her death and is being held on $1 million bail.
Weiser was the eldest child of Thomas Weiser, 51, a medical epidemiologist with the Portland Area Indian Health Service, and Yasuyo Tsunemine, 50, a medical social worker at Fresenius Medical Care, a dialysis provider.
She is survived by a brother, Noboru Weiser, 16, and a sister, Naomi Weiser, 14. The family has lived in Trillium Hollow, a four-acre co-housing community near Beaverton, since 2007.
A funeral mass will be held at 9 a.m. Saturday at Holy Trinity Church in Beaverton and is open to the public. A reception will follow.