Eve Marie Carson has left behind millions of moments—the kind she captured, translated and quoted like poetry.
The radiant and beautiful UNC student body president, who was shot to death at the age of 22 last week in Chapel Hill, profoundly influenced the thousands who knew and loved her. Already, memories of her are pouring in through blogs (carsonmessages.unc.edu) and being painted on makeshift memorials.
As Chancellor James Moeser told a gathering of 5,000 students, faculty and staff March 6, the tragedy of Eve's death was "magnified and multiplied by the number and depths of relationships—meaningful relationships—that [she] had on this campus."
Indeed, Eve's charm and generosity spread exponentially; her pursuit of knowledge and justice transcended geography (a Morehead-Cain scholar and a North Carolina Fellow, she studied and volunteered across the United States and in Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt and Ghana). UNC President Erskine Bowles told The News & Observer that he had never met anyone at the school with more potential. Anyone who knew Eve would say the same. Yet she had the uncommon ability to make everyone around her feel like the most important person in the world.
- Photo courtesy of Matt Saldaña
- Santiago, Cuba, March 2006: UNC Student Body President Eve Carson and Indy contributor Matt Saldaña spent four months together in Cuba on a study abroad program.
In 2006, I spent four months studying abroad in Cuba with Eve. During that time, she surprised me with her spontaneity and kindness, and inspired me with her spirit. She actually made me want to be a better person, and I'd known her for only a few months. As she did with all of her friends, she often told me how glad she was we had met.
One of my earliest memories of Eve occurred as we waited for our flight to Cuba in a small airport in the Bahamas. Someone mentioned looking for food, and we sprang up, leaving our bags behind. Eve grabbed my hand and leapt through the dim corridor, whispering secret-agent jargon.
"What movie is that from?" I asked, unaware then of her penchant for improvisation.
"I just made it up," she said, laughing.
A month later, as we watched an outdoor rumba dancing exposition in Havana, I felt compelled to lean my arm on her shoulder. It was the sort of basic human gesture she had taught us to appreciate. Or maybe it was the force of her magnetism. Either way, she didn't let me forget it.
"That was really nice," she said then, and reminded me of it later.
For Eve, every connection was meaningful, every moment honest and exciting. She seemed to spin adventures out of thin air: dressing up with the girls for a night of dancing in a neighbor's kitchen, turning the infamously long waits in Havana's queues into spontaneous Q&A sessions, philosophizing in class and into her digital voice recorder, somehow finding her way into the after-party of Cuba's most popular musician, singing at the top of her lungs on a 13-hour taxi ride across the island.
Our group's last adventure in Cuba was her idea: staying up all night long, and watching the sunrise from the malecón, Havana's seawall. In typical Eve fashion, she multitasked that night, packing, preparing gifts for her Cuban friends, saying her farewells to the hotel staff and willing herself awake like it was her last night on Earth. She taught all of us to live that way.
Her death—as cruel as it was—doesn't mean we should ever stop. Eve would think it a waste.
Donations to the Eve Marie Carson Fund may be made at giving.unc.edu/gift.
UNC will host a memorial to celebrate Eve Marie Carson's life on Tuesday, March 18, at the Smith Center; click for details.