The Abilene Christian University community stopped again Sunday night and Monday morning to remember the life of a student killed in a tragic vehicle accident, a habit it would just as soon see broken.
ACU junior Lindsey Smith, age 20, died Friday night when two pickup trucks collided on Highway 36, southeast of town. The vehicle in which she was riding with five other ACU students was hit head-on by another, killing the other driver and sending Smith’s friends to the trauma unit at Hendrick Medical Center.
Injured were Robert “Bo” Braddock, senior biology major from Deer Park, Texas; Rebekah Cherniss, freshman journalism and mass communication major from Katy, Texas; Colleen “Callie” Kerbo, freshman marketing major from Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Deanna Romero, freshman history major from Omaha, Neb.; and Eric Terrazas, junior journalism and mass communication major from Argyle, Texas.
Cherniss (fair condition) and Romero (good condition) remain hospitalized today but continue to improve.
More than 850 students gathered Sunday night at the traditional Nine O’Clock devotional at University Church of Christ (UCC) to participate in a devotional with family members of injured, as well as those of the other driver, 27-year-old Jeffrey Dane Davis.
A little more than year ago, the campus was mourning the death of sophomore Anabel Reid, killed in a Nov. 4, 2011, bus accident that injured 15 students, faculty and family members, some critically.
“We find ourselves in what seems like all-too-familiar territory: a lot of feelings and a lot of emotion. It’s hard to describe and hard to process,” said ACU president Dr. Phil Schubert (’91) at the start of the Sunday night service. “God’s glory is most profound in the most difficult places in our lives. The places where we are brought to our knees in weakness and frailty. When there are no words, there is nothing that can be said or done to soothe … Only God can soothe that.”
“This community of relationships – of love, of support – is amazing. It’s unique and it’s special, and the reason is that God is at the center,” Schubert said. The devotional included prayers of lament and praise, readings from Psalm 42, and the soulful a cappella singing for which ACU is known. The service closed with When Peace Like a River (It is Well With My Soul).
ACU Student Life staff, and UCC elders and ministry staff were on hand to listen to any students who needed counsel. “Do not leave this place tonight if you need to talk to somebody. We’re all hurting. Some of us are hurting more profoundly. There are people here to talk to. Do not leave tonight until you find one of us. We can’t fix it, but we can love you and we can listen, and we can pray,” UCC minister Dr. Brent Isbell (’86) said to students.
Dr. Mark Hamilton, professor of Old Testament, associate dean of the Graduate School of Theology, and an elder at UCC, was one of three who prayed during the service. “We don’t imagine that healing happens today, but we pray that it will begin today,” he said. “We do protest the death of the young. We do not see purpose or meaning in it. Maybe that’s our own blindness. Maybe it’s just our honesty. Maybe it’s obscene to look for meaning when there isn’t easily meaning to be found. To be honest, we don’t know for sure.”
Faculty and staff joined students for another devotional period in Chapel yesterday morning in Moody Coliseum, where they were joined by Shelly Reid, the mother of Anabel, who would have turned 21 years old Monday.
“I have to admit that when got the call Friday night that this had happened, my immediate reaction was ‘No, God. No. This can’t happen again,” Schubert said in Chapel Monday. “But yet I reflect on the incredible strength of this community, the strength of our faith, the faithfulness of God, and the way that in the darkest of our hours and in the deepest of our tragedies, He is fully present. I’ve seen that again and again.”
Memorial services for Smith are scheduled for Thursday at 11 a.m. at Oakwood Baptist Church (2154 Loop 337 North) in New Braunfels, Texas, followed by a reception. A livestream of the service will be available here. A burial service will take place at 4 p.m. at Hill Country Memorial for the family and close friends. Zoeller Funeral Home (615 Landa St., New Braunfels, Texas 78130) is handling the arrangements. Smith was a member of the New Braunfels Church of Christ.
ACU’s Office of Student Life is working with Lindsey’s friends on campus, in coordination with the Smith family, to plan a memorial event in Abilene in the near future.