Students filed by the hundreds into Lee Hall auditorium for the vigil ceremony of Shannon Washington, a Florida A&M student and women’s basketball shooting guard. Athletes donned their respective team jerseys, and the rest of the student body entered with heavy hearts for the fallen Rattler.
The evening’s events provided many teary-eyed testimonies to the life of Washington. Her sister, Brittney Washington, was amongst those to speak. She appreciated the quickness of the Florida A&M family in paying homage to her sister’s life. “Even though most of you didn’t know her, I just want to thank you all for your love and support,” Washington said. “She was only here for a week or so, but in her time here she was really happy.”
Washington, a recent transfer from Illinois Vally Community College (IVCC), was stabbed to death early Sunday in an argument with her friend, Starquinesha Palmer. The 20-year-old attacker has since been arrested and charged with first-degree murder.
Ledawn Gibson, head coach of the women’s basketball team, said that the bond they’ve developed over the past years continued to grow once she got to Tallahassee.
“I’ve known Shannon for the past seven years, but in the short two weeks that she was here, we became closer and closer,” Gibson said. Her speech was cut short, as she had succumbed to her grief.
As the team stood on stage with their coach, several of the players could not fight back the tears. During their speeches, teammates praised her work ethic and personality.
Quiana Donald had grown particularly close to Washington, and was with her in her last moments.
“From the first day Shannon got her we talked about everything. You never saw one of us without the other,” Donald said. “My last words to her were I love you.”
University President James Ammons noted how the untimely incident came only moments after the school was in a state of jubilation.
“What a difference a day makes,” Ammons said. “Yesterday, we were all excited about our football team’s victory. Tonight we are here mourning the death of Ms. Washington. We are truly saddened by her passing.”
In attendance were Dr. Walter Smith, the 7th university president and the Florida State University Women’s basketball team.