The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.

The Daily Eastern News

Column: Byron’s life, legacy touch entire campus community

Rashod Whitaker, Contributing Writer

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I was not Byron Edingburg’s best friend, nor was I his favored companion. I was more like his frequent associate my sophomore year.

I had seen him around on campus passing by, heading towards Old Main as I walked into Thomas Hall. He was immediately recognizable with his fuzzy facial hair and slim frame. I once told him I could smell him walking through campus because of his cigarette habits. When I told him he should kick the nicotine for a healthier alternative, he just smiled and laughed at me.  His smile was as genuine as it was innocent. He was friendly enough to laugh at himself while I jabbed at him, which made him a pleasant person to be around. Talking to him was settling because he created peaceful vibe.

The memorial service was a moment of unity and memory. For the first time since last year when the budget rally was held in front of the Doudna steps, I witnessed the entire Eastern community together under one roof paying their respects for a fallen Panther. The atmosphere at the memorial service was somber, but a draft of joy filled the room as friends and faculty remembered Byron. Byron’s life was a celebration, so it seemed fitting to honor him with a celebration of his life at his memorial service.

A representative of the Asian American Association said that Byron had once wrote he hoped to leave people better than how he met them. That representation of solidarity among the Eastern community was everything Byron meant and was something he would have been proud of. Everyone left feeling like they knew Byron personally.

Friends described him as someone who stayed positive and was never mad. Kyiwon Charles, a good friend of Byron’s, introduced me to him through intramural basketball.  We had a team and would link up at the gym to practice and workout together.

Byron knew he was not going pro—we did not think we were, either—but he knew how to be a good teammate. He was funny and vibrant anytime he stepped on the court. He was reliable not only on the court because of his defense, but off the court, too. He was someone who would do anything for you.

That was over a year ago, and now I cannot believe he is gone because of a senseless act that could have been easily avoided. I know gun violence is a heavily-discussed topic in Chicago, but many students came to Charleston to avoid those situations. Never did I imagine it would happen at school, where parents hope their children go to learn happily and safely.

I hope we all learn from this tragedy because of its proximity. You did not have to know him personally, but hearing someone speak so highly of a smart, easy-to-befriend individual creates empathy.

I was looking forward to seeing pictures of him graduating and holding his diploma because he dedicated time to his studies. I knew that was something he was proud of accomplishing. When I graduate, I will take a moment to think to myself how blessed I am to do so, and how Byron should be here too.

 

Rashod Whitaker is a junior public relations major. He can be reached at 581-2812 or rawhitaker@eiu.edu.

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The student news site of Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, Illinois.
Column: Byron’s life, legacy touch entire campus community