LEWISTON, Maine — The mood on Bates College campus Saturday was sad and quiet as the community paid homage to Troy Pappas, 18, of Eliot, who died Friday from a stairwell fall six days earlier.
This weekend is parents weekend at Bates. As parents and their students walked to and from campus buildings, students remembered Pappas.
Freshman Nicole Cueli said she talked to him off and on during the first month of school.
“He’s a sweetheart,” she said. “He graduated in the top 10 in his class. He’s a genius, a kind kid. Honestly it’s hitting everyone really hard. It’s a small school.”
The freshman was injured Sept. 29 when he fell down a stairwell at Parker Hall. Pappas lived in Page Hall. The Seacoast newspaper of New Hampshire reported Saturday that Pappas fell from the third floor to the ground level.
Pappas, a football player, graduated in June from Marshwood High school, which is near Kittery. Longtime Marshwood football coach Richard Goulet said he talked to Pappas’ teammates who were with him when the accident happened, the Seacoast reported.
“They had an away game, and when they came back to the dorm Troy ran upstairs to get his wallet or something,” Goulet told the Seacoast. “He was on the third floor and jumped up onto the banister and lost his balance. He landed on his head,” Goulet said.
Bates students said it’s not uncommon to slide down the banister. “It’s quicker than walking,” Tess Walther said. The building and staircase is tall, and Pappas fell back into the staircase, students said.
“We all do silly things” where no one thinks anyone will get hurt, she said. “There’s that one percent that does get affected.” The student’s death “is making everybody stop and slow down, thinking about what we’re doing and how it can affect everybody else,” Walther said.
Even those who didn’t know him were affected, said sophomore Hannah Siegel.
Saturday became a day of reflection, this year’s parents weekend is a time to reconnect with loved ones, “a time for being thankful for what we have,” Siegel said.
Bates freshman Berto Diaz, 19, said the atmosphere on campus is different. “You can really feel the tension,” he said.
Since Pappas was hurt there’s been campuswide frequent updates, everyone hoping for good news. Many students, especially the football players, have been quiet in class, Diaz said. The accident reminds everyone how fragile life can be. “It hits home,” Diaz said.
After Pappas’ death was announced Friday night there was an a cappella concert at the Gray Cage. “It was really nice,” Diaz said. There was a dedication to Pappas, followed by a moment of silence.
“Everything was quiet,” he said. “One of the lamps in the middle of the building started swaying. There was no wind,” Diaz said. People took note of the ceiling lamp that moved back and forth, he said. “It makes you feel like he was with us.”
Earlier Saturday Pappas was remembered at the football game, which Bates won 33-6.
As the team went onto the field, captain Patrick George held up Pappas’s No. 8 jersey, which each player touched. Bates players wore decals on the helmets with the No. 8 and initials “TP.”
After, a memorial gathering was held in the Chase Commons. A 45-minute vigil was led by Bates Chaplain Bill Blain-Wallace and Associate Chaplain Emily Wright-Chapman.
During the six days that Pappas was at Central Maine Medical Center, 300 to 400 people from Bates went to the hospital to support Pappas and his family. His teammates kept a constant vigil around his hospital bed, Blain-Wallace said. “The healing I witnessed was extraordinary.”
Football coach Mark Harriman described Pappas as the “consummate team player,” a talented athlete and student. In high school Pappas played quarterback. “We asked him to move to wide receiver.” He posed a great work ethic and came from a loving family.
Pappas’ grandmother, uncles, aunts and cousin were at the game in his honor, Harriman said. During the last week, family members were at the hospital, providing each other with “amazing love and support,” Harriman said.
A formal memorial service will be held at Bates. The date has yet to be announced.
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