Remaining positive in light of tragedy: Wash. U. remembers Gabby Reuveni
Elizabeth Worley said the first thing she felt when she heard that her former roommate had passed away was shock. And despite every emotion she’s felt in the week since the accident, Worley says Gabby Reuveni’s death still seems impossible.
“I still can’t believe it’s real. Being at home, I feel like everything has been a nightmare that I’m going to wake up from. But every morning since I’ve realized that unfortunately this is happening, this is real life,” Worley said.
“It’s funny, because I keep thinking how she would hate to just watch us all be emotional wrecks.”
Reuveni, a rising junior on the women’s cross-country team, an active member of Alpha Phi sorority and a beloved friend, daughter and sister was struck by a car during a morning jog on July 14 and reportedly killed on impact.
The accident, still under investigation by Pennsylvania state police, leaves a void in the hearts of the many on campus who prized her as more than just a friend.
Her funeral held in her hometown of Parasmus, Pa., on July 17, brought together around 1,000 friends and family members, estimated Sophie Jacobson, one of Reuveni’s friends, to mourn her passing and celebrate the life she lived.
“There were probably about 200 Wash. U. students at the funeral. Gabby had touched the lives of so many…. As a result, the funeral was very emotional and the loss was felt deeply by all. However, just as Gabby would have wanted, the Wash. U. students came together to give each other support and to honor the way Gabby lived her life. There was also amazing support from her family and friends from home. At the funeral, it didn’t matter how you knew Gabby—everyone was there for each other,” Jacobson wrote to Student Life.
“It has obviously been very difficult—I feel like a piece of me is gone—but the support has been amazing. The fact that so many Wash. U. students came together from all over the country made dealing with this horrible loss just a little better. It also shows what kind of person Gabby was and the impact she had on others,” she added.
Both her teammates and her coach said that with her death happening so suddenly, it was incredibly difficult to accept what had happened. While the shock continues to settle as reality sets in, at least at first, no one seemed to know exactly how to respond.
“Everyone is mourning and grieving, and we’re going to miss her beyond words,” said Jeff Stiles, the University’s head cross-country coach, just after speaking with the family on July 14. “It’s just sober. It’s just shock. And we’re devastated. And words don’t do justice.”
Her friends remember her as one of the most positive people they’ve ever known. One of her teammates, recent graduate Liz Phillips, recalled Reuveni’s freshman year, when Reuveni came just short of qualifying for the team’s last spot in the University Athletic Association competition in New York City.
“Instead of being upset or jealous or disappointed, she took it all in stride and said with complete sincerity how happy she was that her teammate was able to compete in that No. 10 spot. Then, when the rest of the team flew out to New York, she flew out at her own expense to cheer for her teammates at conference. She showed up, dressed in bright red and green spandex and maybe even a tutu if I remember correctly and just cheered her heart out for everyone,” Phillips said. “She always put her team before herself.”
Another teammate, rising sophomore Lucy Cheadle, said that Gabby always put her heart into everything she did, whether it was her athletics, extracurricular activities or relationships.
“Her genuine love for everyone around her and her passion for life will always inspire me. She was involved in so many things but somehow managed to balance everything so gracefully and still always have time to ask me how I was doing,” Cheadle said. “Gabby has taught me to live life with purpose and passion, and for that I am forever grateful.”
Although Washington University’s community may be scattered for the summer, Chabad on Campus Rabbi Hershey Novack said her passing has had a clear impact on students and campus. With Gabby being part of Chabad’s extended family, he has seen a wave of mourning passing through the group’s members following her death.
“Right now they’re shocked and very raw,” Novack said. “Her all-too-brief life was a blessing and a light for so many.”
“Celebrations of life and tragedy are times when people gather together in community and rely on each other for strength and comfort,” he said. “It’s clear that she was a young lady with limitless potential.”
But for many of her friends, remembering her is more than just recalling the inspiration and optimism that she brought to their lives. Many said they can’t help but think of her even at the most arbitrary moments.
“I’ll always remember Gabby when I see baby carrots because she was always eating baby carrots. Just the little things. I remember when I first met her and we would always have breakfast in her room after practice. The cereal that she always had was this multi-grain square, and I had it, too, all the time. I almost forgot how much she influenced me. Every time I see that cereal, I think, ‘Hey that’s Gabby,’” rising junior Sarah Fisher said. “She was such a strong presence; it will be very obvious that it is missing when we all come back to Wash. U.”
Worley, a rising junior, said she was driving home to Chicago with a friend following Reuveni’s death, when she suddenly decided they should go through downtown St. Louis. Just passing through the city brought back the memory of a trip she had made with Reuveni after grocery shopping their freshman year.
“I remember coming back to campus, and since I’m from St. Louis, I was giving Gabs directions as she was driving. I told her to get off at Big Bend and …instead of turning left, which I thought she would just do, she just went straight and got back onto the highway,” Worley said.
“She kept driving. She said she wanted to see the Arch. So there we were, borrowing I can’t even remember whose car, and we just drove downtown, windows rolled down, music blaring, and just drove to the Arch. We snapped pictures out the window as she began to. She loved pics. Essentially, we were just joyriding downtown. And then as we came back to school, we didn’t just come back. We drove loops around campus, windows rolled down, and screaming/singing to people on the streets. We drove down Forsyth, through the 40, and through the Village a couple of times. We got the strangest looks, especially from the people we saw twice or even three times, but we didn’t care. We were living life. I mean we were yelling out the windows at people, singing to Britney Spears and any other song we could find on the radio. We were just living. …I can’t say it is my absolute favorite moment, but there are so many favorites for me. But this was a great one.”
Following freshman Emily Benatar’s death from meningococcal disease in May, Reuveni was the second Alpha Phi sister to pass away this summer.
“She was the most open, giving person I believe I have ever met, and I say that with no exaggeration. Especially after the passing of Emily, Gabby took it upon herself to make sure that everyone was able to cope with the loss, and now we are using Gabby’s wise words and deeds as a model of how to cope with this one. She is truly an inspiration,” Sally Cohen, rising senior and Alpha Phi president wrote to Student Life. “Gabby has left us with a million reminders of how to be better to each other, to enjoy our time together, and to never miss an opportunity to share ourselves.”