More than 100 UND students, faculty and staff gathered in the main ballroom of the Memorial Union to remember John Hauser, the UND aviation student who was killed in a plane crash on Monday, Oct. 18.

On Tuesday evening at 6 p.m., students were greeted by UND administrators as they entered the ballroom and took places at the dozens of tables set up for the event. It was a solemn occasion, as students quietly talked among themselves. There were no speakers or formal agenda for the event. It was a chance for people to remember Hauser and relate with others the feelings they had about Monday’s deadly crash. The gathering was followed by a vigil held outside the Delta Tau Delta fraternity across University Avenue from the Memorial Union.

“I had a chance to meet some of the close friends of (John Hauser), and of course there's just profound sadness,” said UND President Andrew Armacost. “There's a lot of questions about what happened.”

Armacost was among the several UND administrators who attended the event and went from table to table to speak with students. Armacost said he told them to rely on and look out for each other, and to make sure they avail themselves of the university’s counseling services. He said he assured students the university would stand by them and make sure their needs will be met.

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“This might be the first time that (some students) have lost a close friend, so I'm really hopeful that they can bind together and that they can rely on the support of the university,” Armacost said.

Hundreds of UND students gather outside Delta Tau Delta fraternity at a vigil for John Hauser, the 19-year-old student pilot who died in a plane crash near Buxton, ND, Monday evening. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Hundreds of UND students gather outside Delta Tau Delta fraternity at a vigil for John Hauser, the 19-year-old student pilot who died in a plane crash near Buxton, ND, Monday evening. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Several members of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity gathered at the event, with many wearing “Delts” athletic jerseys, in a sign of fellowship for their friend. Students went from table to table greeting and hugging one another, some showing signs of the emotional strain of the day.

Freshman aviation students Kelsey Wagner and Kiana Ness said they attended the event to show support for the aerospace community. Wagner said that even though they had not met Hauser, a sophomore, they wanted to attend to help them “balance everything” they were feeling.

Robert Kraus, dean of UND's John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences, said the evening was about healing and making sure people were aware of the resources available to them. In an email to the UND aerospace community earlier on Tuesday, Kraus, like Armacost, said students need to take care of themselves, and make use of counseling services if they feel it necessary.

Krause said the aviation students can be scared of speaking to counselors or other medical professionals because they might be afraid of losing their flight status.

But the message Tuesday night, as relayed by Armacost and Kraus, was that students have counseling options available to them, and should feel free to use them.

“It really is just about getting together and talking to each other,” Kraus said. “We're working closely with the University Counseling Center and employee assistance program for the faculty and staff, and just making sure that resources are available to students as they need.”

Following the event, Delta Tau Delta members gathered on the lawn in front of their house, at the corner of University Avenue and Columbia Road, for a vigil in honor of Hauser. Shortly after 8 p.m. the number of people swelled to about two dozen, as more people continued to join the event.

Paper bags with candles lined both sides on University Avenue. Once lit, the bags evoked the image of a runway at night, flanked by the accompanying runway lights. Ian Godfrey, lead chapter advisor for Delta Tau Delta, said the fraternity provided candles for people to hold at the vigil, and that another UND student provided the candles for the sidewalk installation. Members of the chapter will reach out to that individual to express their thanks in the coming days, Godfrey said.