Hopkins event tinged with sadness Spring homecoming held days after student slaying

April 14, 1996|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

The Johns Hopkins University campus tried to put last week's shooting behind it yesterday, taking just a moment out of its spring homecoming celebration to recall slain sophomore Rex T. Chao.

Hopkins students, faculty and alumni who packed Homewood Field for yesterday's lacrosse game against the University of Maryland observed 10 seconds of silence to honor the memory of Mr. Chao, the 19-year-old campus leader who was killed Wednesday night.

"It's horrible what happened, but there's nothing now that you can do except go on with life," said senior Taj Bayless, 20, who attended yesterday's game.

Mr. Bayless, like the many other Hopkins students and faculty who knew Mr. Chao, plans to travel to Long Island, N.Y., on university-chartered buses tomorow for the talented musician's funeral.

Mr. Chao of Port Washington, N.Y., was killed shortly after being elected chairman of the college Republican club. Estranged friend Robert J. Harwood Jr., 22, of Westerly, R.I., is a suspect in the crime.

Mr. Harwood had tried to stop Mr. Chao's election and, police said, shot Mr. Chao as they and a fellow student, Suzanne Hubbard, were walking down a path outside the Milton S. Eisenhower Library after the meeting. Mr. Harwood had harassed Mr. Chao after Mr. Chao tried to break off their friendship, police and friends said.

While the slaying shocked the university community and led Hopkins officials to postpone exams and papers due last Friday, life appeared to have returned to normal yesterday. Across the campus, students and alumni marked homecoming with parties and barbecues, determined to resume their usual activities.

"If it had been a mugging that led to this murder, a lot of people still would be really upset and scared," said sophomore Rob Dorschner, 20. "But as it is, I think it's been easier for people to get over it."

The only outward sign of Wednesday night's slaying was a roped-off memorial to Mr. Chao at the spot where he was killed, with fresh flowers and a green ribbon tied around a tree. But just 100 feet away from the path was a group of students drinking beer and holding a barbecue.

"You have to go on. We can't grieve forever," said junior Pat O'Neill, 21, who knew Mr. Chao and Mr. Harwood and had attended Wednesday night's Republican club meeting. He stepped away from his fraternity's party for a few minutes to sip his beer, gaze at the site of his friend's death and ponder what had happened.

"This campus will not be the same as long as I'm here. This will stick with me forever," Mr. O'Neill said.

The moment of silence before yesterday's lacrosse game also honored the memory of Naomi Poling Warbasse, a Commerce Department official who died in the April 3 plane crash in Croatia that also killed Secretary Ronald H. Brown and 33 others. The 1991 Hopkins graduate would have turned 25 yesterday and celebrated her five-year college reunion.

Pub Date: 4/14/96

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