More than 100 students, faculty and staff gathered at the Pegasus Statue for a candlelight vigil on Tuesday night to honor Albert Cruz, a Binghamton University student who passed away on Sunday.
Cruz, a senior majoring in English who was nicknamed Alby by his friends, was originally from the Bronx and was a publicity chair and e-board member of the Philippine-American League (PAL). Cruz also worked at Late Nite Binghamton, helping to plan weekend programming.
On Sunday night, Cruz was found collapsed in his suite in Mohawk Hall of College-in-the-Woods and was rushed to the hospital. According to University officials, Cruz died later that night of natural causes. His death came as a shock to those who knew him on campus. At the vigil, organized by PAL, members encouraged attendees to focus on Cruz’s life, asking them to write messages to Cruz’s family or write their favorite memories with him on small pieces of paper.
Additionally, attendees performed songs, including “Amazing Grace” and “You Raise Me Up,” and released purple balloons in his honor.
During the vigil, Cruz’s friends also talked about his personality and the positive impact he had on their lives. Elijah Kim, a senior majoring in systems science and industrial engineering, said Cruz would go out of his way to make others feel comfortable.
“Albert was a man who was kind-hearted, loving, caring and passionate,” Kim said. “He never failed to make the people around him laugh and he always wanted others to smile as well. He truly had a unique and loving soul that no one could ever forget.”
As a fellow PAL E-Board member, Kim said he was able to see the passion and hard work Cruz put into the club, and always admired his motivation.
“He was also the first to welcome me to this e-board,” Kim said. “I was looking through my Snapchat story with him and came across a time when we were talking about the elections for the social chair position, and he said, ‘I can’t wait for the crazy [stuff] we’ll do on e-board.’ Although they weren’t that crazy, they were definitely moments I will treasure in my heart.”
Maisha Ikra, a sophomore double-majoring in environmental studies and English, said she grew close with Cruz during her time as an intern and e-board member of PAL. Ikra, who has a disability, said Cruz supported her whenever she had negative feelings about herself.
“Trying to attend this school with a disability and understanding the social struggle and the physical struggle that comes with that [is difficult], and Albert also understood that struggle really well,” Ikra said. “He was always there to hear me out whenever I said I felt so different or whenever I hated myself so much for not being like the other people here because of my disability.”
The last time Shimona Lahiri saw Cruz, she played video games with him. Lahiri, a junior majoring in psychology, said she’ll never forget that final meeting.
“I am just so, so sad that that’s not going to happen anymore,” Lahiri said. “He was just such a genuine person and was really true to himself, and it’s just so, so sad that he was taken.”