The young student was sitting alone on the steps of historic Chapel Hall, staring past Gallaudet College's manicured lawns and crepe myrtle trees and into his own feelings about the fatal stabbing of one of his classmates.
"I'm just so shocked that a deaf person (allegedly) could do this to another deaf person," he said in sign language to a school administrator. "Deaf people usually take care of each other."
Following the fatal stabbing of 19-year-old Jamie Wilding of Ontario, Canada, last Saturday and the subsequent arrest of another student, Douglas L. Woodworth, also 19, of Warwick, R.I., in connection with the slaying at the Northeast Washington school, students and faculty at the nation's only liberal arts college for the deaf say they are doing their best to cope.
The first murder at the 116-year-old institution, however, has left its own special mark.
"This was unique in the Gallaudet experience," said Donna Chitwood, the school's spokeswoman. "One consideration here is that the regular school year was not yet under way. We had new, incoming students on campus who were attempting to make the transition from high school to college life."
During the orientation, Chitwood said, "students work together and become very close. There's a special kind of excitement that comes with it, but this tragic conclusion, well, it's grotesque."
Following the stabbing, school officials say several students considered dropping out of school, fearing for their safety. But stepped-up counseling for the students headed off any withdrawals.
A memorial service was held for Wilding on Wednesday, and college President Edward C. Merrill Jr. has sent a letter to parents of Gallaudet's more than 1,300 students, relating the facts of the incident and assuring them that Woodworth "will not be allowed to return to Gallaudet.
"The college is undertaking to launch a new year as normally as possible in spite of this sadness," Merrill's letter said.
"It was a terrible thing," Sally Baskerville, a 19-year-old college preparatory student from Ontario, said through an interpreter. "It made us unhappy because we're new students and it shows a bad example. Some of us wanted to leave at first . . . I saw them bring out the body."
According to D.C. police reports, Wilding, who lived in Krug Hall on campus, went to Benson Hall to visit Woodworth in his room sometime between midnight and 12:30 a.m. on Saturday. Soon after, Wilding was stabbed several times and his body was pushed from the window of an eighth-floor room.
Police say they have not yet determined the motive for the stabbing, and there were no signs of struggle in the room in which the stabbing took place.
Shortly after the body was found, Woodworth was arrested by police and charged with first-degree premeditated murder.
On Monday, the charge against Woodworth was reduced to second-degree murder. He was released in the custody of his parents pending a jury investigation early next week.