By: Caroline Glenn / Central Florida Future
“The soul of man is the flame of God.”
Those were the words Rabbi Chaim Lipskier read from the Torah as solemn students, staff and well-wishers stood around University of Central Florida’s Reflecting Pond Wednesday night, their lit candles mirrored in the dark water.
Crowds of students stood at the heart of campus, nestled between the golden light of Millican Hall and the vibrant stained glass of the library to honor fallen former UCF student Steven Joel Sotloff.
On Tuesday, only weeks after he first appeared in a video released by the extremist group ISIS showing the beheading of American journalist James Foley, Sotloff met the same fate.
The candlelight vigil, which was organized by UCF’s chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists and campus organization The Gauntlet, sought to not only remember Sotloff, but celebrate his “courage and curiosity,” as journalism professor Richard Brunson said.
Friend and former rugby teammate Chris Nault described Sotloff as “an all-around great guy chasing his dream.” Sotloff was serving as a freelance journalist in the Middle East and previously worked at the student-run Central Florida Future as a senior staff writer.
“We’re hoping people will (remember him) for what he did in his life, instead of focusing on how he died,” said Melissa Catalanotto, president of SPJ and a senior journalism major at UCF.
Members of UCF’s Syrian American Council also spoke at the event, including Hiba Shaban, a senior biomedical major.
As a Syrian American, she said she’s known about the evils of ISIS for the past two years and hopes President Barack Obama will lend the country’s support to moderate rebels to prevent another American tragedy.
While the reactions varied from person to person — tears, nausea and utter shock — Rabbi Lipskier and UCF spokesman Grant Heston spoke of one point of The UCF Creed: community.
Although Sotloff attended UCF more than 12 years ago, the bond runs deep.
“Something brought them here around the Reflecting Pond — we’re all Knights,” Brunson said.