CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WRIC) — Charlottesville’s energy radiated emotions both delicate, yet powerful in nature on Monday, November 13. In a beautiful moment of reflection, the bells rang at the University of Virginia’s (UVA) chapel in remembrance of the three men who lost their lives a year ago to date.
The sounds of reflection, grief and three legacies powered on to the tune of “Amazing Grace.” 8News first covered the tragic event that played out on November 13, 2022. On that date, UVA students — and football players — D’Sean Perry, Lavel Davis Jr., and Devin Chandler — lost their lives to gunfire, reportedly at the hands of another classmate, following a field trip to Washington, DC. Shortly after the shooting, D’Sean’s mother, Happy Perry, spoke publicly for the first time.
“Wherever [D’Sean Perry] goes,” Perry started. “He’s always going to let his little light shine.”
Now exactly one year later, that “Little Light” — shined brightly at the school as leaders launched the beginning of a week of memorial events. Students and community members proved the meaning of “UVA Strong” following a panel hosted by UVA’s Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. The entire greenspace surrounding UVA’s chapel, as well as across the lawn area, became filled with people there with the sole intent of honoring their fallen peers.
A large part of the Batten school’s panel was about education — teaching others about the impact of grief on loved ones.
“I knew that I had to get that strength every day to get up to keep going… to keep moving,” Perry said.
That strength radiated outside of the family to others impacted by the tragic loss. Will Bettridge — a current UVA football player who earned an ultimate honor — sporting D’Sean Perry’s number, 41, took to the stage. The young athlete looked directly at his late teammate’s mother.
“Because of your courage and your leadership and being there for all of us, we fight and you keep pushing us to be better people on and off the field,” Bettridge said.
In a video, D’Sean’s friends talked about pieces of the “gentle giant” that few knew about prior to his death. A friend smiled as he discussed D’Sean’s passion for art and music, his appreciation for Billie Eilish’s song “I love you.” That song title and those words eternally rest heavily in Perry’s family members’ hearts.
“Those three words,” Perry began. “They go a long way.”
Among others, a survivor of the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School, Kevin Parker, spoke. As well as Tracy Walls — a former UGA student athlete who lost her son to gunfire.
In closing, all eyes turned to Bettridge as he addressed Happy Perry.
“I just want to say thank you,” Bettridge said before hugging the mother. “I’m eternally grateful to you. I love you.”
The remainder of Monday’s calendar at the university is filled with events continuing to honor Perry, Davis Jr. and Chandler.