NORMAL, Ill. -- A sea of red filled Illinois State University's Redbird Arena Wednesday night, as a community mourns the loss of family, friends, coaches and colleagues
"It's our duty to honor them as we move forward," said ISU President, Larry Dietz. "It's our duty to support their families."
And that's just what this community did, embracing the family members in their arms.
Aaron Leetch was the Deputy Director of Athletics at ISU. Torrey Ward was the Associate Head Coach of the men's basketball team. The five other victims all had a connection to the University in some way.
"Tonight is a night of grieving but is also a night of caring, a night of sharing, a night of a lot of hugs. But also a night of resilience for our close Illinois State University family," Dietz said.
Many in the community are still trying to understand why this happened.
"Because though we have no playbook for such an event, God has a playbook. And he has an answer in the playbook," said Rev. John Rayford.
Now, the ISU family is trying to help each other cope with the loss of seven men, taken too soon.
"The redbird tailgate in heaven just went to a whole different level," ISU Director of Athletics, Larry Lyons said. "May God bless Aaron Leetch, Torrey Ward, Andy Butler, Terry Stralow, Jason Jones, Scott Bittner and Tom Hileman. May God bless their families," Lyons said.