Students, alumni unite to remember those lost in Ocean Isle Beachfire
Around 7 p.m. Thursday night, members of Delta Delta Delta emerged from their sorority house, each holding a candle.
Slowly, members of other Greek organizations joined them on the grassy knoll. As members lit one another’s candles, a small part of the night brightened in Greek Village.
The Greeks had gathered in remembrance of seven students who died in the 2007 Ocean Isle Beach house fire. Three were members of Delta Delta Delta, three were members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and one was a Clemson student. Greeks have gathered every year since the tragedy to remember those lost.
The group of about 100 formed a large circle and then came together to hear the words of a campus minister. With scriptures and words, he conveyed to them a lesson of the tragedy: Life is brief, and one should live every day well.
Several in the crowd did not need the reminder. Though many of Greeks Thursday were too young to personally know the victims, a few alumni attended.
“It still affects us now,” said Kate Menzer, a member of the 2007 pledge class. “One of my roommates now was one of Cassidy Pendley’s best friends, and she can’t even come. She came home slamming the door today, and that’s just the way she handles it. Justin Anderson, one of the SAEs, our parents are friends, and it still affects them every day. There’s daily reminders; there’s yearly reminders.”
Tripp Wylie, one of the six students who escaped the burning beach house, missed the ceremony. He was driving back from Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina, where he has visited the site of the fire every anniversary.
“Every time I go down there I feel a little bit better,” said Wylie, who lost some of his best friends in the blaze. “Personally, I feel something. I’m definitely sad, just wishing that my friends were still here, but at the same time I know they are still here with me.”
Wylie said the week of the anniversary is always tough, but he is able to rally around friends, family and everyone who knew those who died. He said he is glad generations of Greeks who didn’t personally know the victims are still keeping their memory alive.
“You know, you’re not going to get over something like that,” Wylie said. “I’m just blessed to have such good friends and family who have helped me get through these kind of things. They are going to be remembered every day for a long time.”
At the end of the ceremony the candles were extinguished, like the flames at Ocean Isle, but the memory of those lost on that tragic day lived on.