Candlelight glowed on faces in evening darkness. Friends sat hugging, laughing, sobbing, remembering her as photos flashed across a projection screen. In many, she smiled back.
Thousands of people closed a day of mourning for Eve Carson in UNC-Chapel Hill's Pit on Thursday night, holding candles and listening to song.
"This is the kind of event that I think shakes a campus to the core," said Abbey Thompson, a graduate student.
Thursday's rite of sorrow and remembrance began before dawn.
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An administrator woke Chancellor James Moeser at 5:30 a.m. to tell him that Wednesday's shooting victim might be Carson, the student body president.
Moeser collapsed in a chair.
The news trickled slowly across campus by early afternoon. Students huddled in hallways and sat in the sun, tangled in hugs, tears and whispers. Several thousand flocked to Polk Place, a grassy quad that draws students in the best and worst of times.
"This is a tragedy magnified and multiplied by the number and depth of the meaningful relationships that Eve Carson had on this campus," said Moeser, standing on the South Building terrace. "If we want to respect and remember Eve Carson, we will do it by embracing each other."
Students sank into one another, clutching flowers and tissues as a television helicopter buzzed overhead. The bell tower played "Hark, the Sound of Tar Heel Voices." Moeser urged those gathered to drop their daisies and carnations at the base of a leafless oak.
Each student seemed to have an Eve Carson story. She was that girl on campus, everywhere, into everything, seemingly working around the clock.
Senior Danielle Shapiro, 21, shared a single political science course with Carson, yet she felt she knew her.
"If you needed a favor from her, she would do it no matter what," Shapiro said. "She had a full plate. Being the student body president was a really tough job, and she never let it show."
Junior Stephen Vance, 21, met Carson through the Morehead Scholars program that helped them both attend UNC-CH.
"She embodies the word beautiful in every shape of the definition, in spirit and mind and heart. ... When she talked to you, she just made you feel like you were something special," said Vance. "This really is the unimaginable."
Administrators braced for students needing to talk through their sadness. A team of 30 counselors was on hand. Duke University offered a dozen more.
Gov. Mike Easley issued a statement: "I join the entire UNC community in mourning the tragic death of Eve Carson. There are few other words that can express the sorrow of such a promising life ended so soon and so violently."