The community came together last week to mourn, remember and celebrate the life of slain student MacKenzie Lueck.
AnnaMarie Barnes, president of the Associated Students of the University of Utah, opened the vigil by talking about MacKenzie’s “fun, caring nature” and encouraging those in attendance to leave a note to her friends and family. Four of MacKenzie’s friends shared memories and spoke at the event, along with remarks from Vice President for Student Affairs Lori McDonald and U President Ruth V. Watkins.
Friends speaking at the vigil, held outside the Olpin Student Union Building, remembered MacKenzie as an animal lover and the first person to lend a helping hand.
“She had a way of making you feel special,” said Kennedy Stoner, MacKenzie’s friend and former sorority sister. “She loved helping people and always had a smile on her face. She always put others before herself.”
The vigil drew a large crowd, and Stoner said, “Kenzie would light up with joy knowing there are so many people here to support her.”
MacKenzie’s bubbly and witty personality is something that drew friend Katie Kvam and others to MacKenzie.
“While life without Kenzie will be far from easy, I will live every day knowing that her sweet spirit is with me,” Kvam said. “I will continue to love and cherish the friendship we had.”
Another friend, Juli Cauley, shared a memory in which MacKenzie dropped everything to help Cauley decorate her graduation cap the night before commencement. Cauley had forgotten about the project, and together, they spent hours preparing for the big day. Cauley was looking forward to repaying the favor to MacKenzie this coming academic year.
Through tears, Cauley reminded those attending to “hold your loved ones close.”
“Tragically, she won’t be among the graduates next spring,” said McDonald. “For those of you grieving MacKenzie’s loss, please know you are not alone—that help is available.”
McDonald emphasized individual and group counseling resources available for those in need. The university had counseling professionals and victim-survivor advocates on-site after the vigil.
“When tragedies happen, I know that it leaves many of us saddened, shocked, even angry, and I recognize that it may make us feel very uncertain, even fearful,” said Watkins. “As a community we join together to honor MacKenzie, even as we grieve this terrible tragedy. We stand together to support each other in enhancing safety and well-being—this work is ongoing. I know it will never end.”
Ashley Fine, another friend, expressed that they will honor MacKenzie’s legacy through simple acts of kindness and, while tragic, “It is also a story of friendship and the strong bonds of women.”
“This person took away our friend, but he will not take away our strength,” Fine said. “We will continue to advocate for victims of violence in our community and will continue to use MacKenzie’s voice for good.”
Moving forward, MacKenzie’s friends hope to give a voice to victims and offer help to families through a foundation called MacKenzie’s Voice.
MacKenzie was a student in the university’s College of Health, pursuing a degree in kinesiology, and was looking forward to a career in the health sciences. She spoke with her advisors about possibly going to nursing or medical school. She was planning to graduate in May 2020.
MacKenzie was last heard from on June 17, 2019, and reported missing on June 20, 2019.
The Salt Lake City Police Department filed murder charges against a suspect on June 28, 2019, and announced last Friday, July 5, 2019, that her remains had been found in Logan Canyon.