Wednesday evening, students, faculty, and staff filled the Main Mall of the University of Texas at Austin to honor Harrison Brown, the freshman student who was killed in a tragic on-campus stabbing on Monday. Thousands gathered in front of the Tower to pay tribute to the Graham native—a momentary and unexpected pause in a tumultuous last week of classes.
Along with Brown’s friends and mentors, UT President Gregory Fenves spoke of Brown and his love for his family. Last year Brown and his brother John, also a UT alum, participated in a walk to raise money for Lou Gehrig’s disease with their father, who has ALS, out of his wheelchair and carried him across the finish line. Brown’s dedication to his family was one of the last things he demonstrated. After he was attacked on Monday, Brown handed a stranger his phone and asked her to call his mom.
Since Brown’s murder, word has spread of his warm smile and his love for music. A video of Brown singing “I’ll Be” by Edwin McCain has been making its rounds across the internet. In tribute to Brown’s passion, music factored in heavily during the gathering. Tyler Dial, a marketing junior, began the evening by performing “The Heart of Life” by John Mayer, one of Brown’s favorite artists. The Ransom Notes, a UT a cappella group that Brown has joined this semester, ended the night by singing “Amazing Grace.”
After chimes of the tower bells—rung nineteen times to commemorate each year of Brown’s life—faded away, Colton Becker, a friend and mentor of Brown’s, told those gathered that they were free to disperse, but few people moved from their spot as “I’ll Be” began to play over the speakers. As students and faculty cried softly, huddling together and hugging each other, one student held up their hand in UT’s “Hook ‘em, horns” sign. Quietly, those around the student followed suit. As the last lines of the song played, mourners held their hands high for Brown.