The small school with the big heart has come together once again. Students and staff gathered outside the Campus Center on Nov. 12 after the suicide death of Brian Dagle to honor the sophomore education major. Castleton State College President Dave Wolk discussed how at Castleton, we are a family. At the Monday night movie two days later, Student Activists for Africa raised money in his honor. And then there was the Beats for Brian concert.
The sense of community is the best part of being a Castleton student. Everyone knows each other, if not literally, by association. Castleton’s small student body makes it easy to join together to laugh, cry and remember an individual who affected so many people during his short time here. Students who did not even know Dagle came out to show their support for those closest to him.
The Castleton community didn’t get the same chance for student Andrew Casey though.
Casey committed suicide in the summer of 2010 and students were alerted through e-mail. But the circumstances were different because the community was removed from the campus at the time of his death.
His friends here at Castleton and former football and lacrosse teammates at Rice Memorial High School, however, kept his memory alive, just as the college has done for Dagle.
Cora LeClair and Casey’s suitemate, Justin Cawley, made wristbands after his death and sold them for $1. Cawley created the design, which included Andy’s name, birthday and death date.
Casey’s mother, Eileen, said in a recent interview that she went to vote after her son’s death and someone asked her where her blue wrist band was? She was unaware they even existed.
“They were selling them and using the money to put fresh flowers on his grave every week for a year,” she said, her voice cracking over the phone.
Money was also donated to the Chapel of Saint Michael, according to LeClair. While many students attended Casey’s funeral, Leclair said she does wish that Castleton would have done more for his family, but is happy that his death wasn’t as publicized for the sake of his family. LeClair and Cawley remain close to Eileen and go over for dinner during breaks and regularly talk on the phone.
While it’s been over a year since Casey’s death, the memories didn’t end after all the bracelets were sold.
“Justin and Andy were great friends and he still talks about him daily. Suicide affects everyone and to this day it’s hard for both of us,” she said.
The Rice football team draped Casey’s number 12 jersey over the bench during every home and away game the season following his death. After pulling out wins against all odds the following season, they took the state championship — fittingly played at Castleton — and dedicated the season to Casey.
It is amazing to see everyone come together and for many to be a shoulder for others to lean on. But it’s important to remember that Dagle wasn’t the first, and he won’t be the last. It’s great to know that, like president Wolk said, we are a family. We are each other’s emotional crutches. Castleton has made us grow into compassionate, caring, heartfelt individuals who are willing to sing each other’s praises, but also mourn each other’s heartaches.