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Duke hosts lower-key beach house tributes than UNC

In the aftershock of the Ocean Beach, N.C., house fire that killed seven college students last month, greek organizations throughout the state have come together in grief and solidarity for the victims.

But on the campuses of Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the mourning took different forms.

At Duke, the tragedy hit closest to home for members of the Panhellenic Association, an umbrella group for the 10 sororities on campus. Delta Delta Delta, one member sorority, lost three sisters from its University of South Carolina chapter in the fire. A student from Clemson University also died.

"Whenever something so tragic or unexplainable happens, particularly to other college students, we feel a shared sense of loss," said Panhel President Kate Guthrie, a senior.

Members of Panhel expressed support through cards and flowers sent to the USC branch last week, Guthrie said. She added that the group also plans to make a contribution to a fund set up in memory of the victims.

"This is a terrible tragedy for any family, sorority or campus to have to go through," she said.

Down highway 15-501, UNC students paid tribute to the fire victims with a public vigil. Approximately 40 students were present for the memorial, held last Wednesday in the university's arboretum. Those who attended received ribbons in orange, garnet and blue-the colors of Clemson, USC and UNC-and were invited to leave flowers and notes.

UNC senior Rebecca Wood, president of co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega, organized the memorial. Wood said she chose to hold the event to allow the healing process to begin for those on campus affected by the tragedy.

"People expressed a need for closure and a way to pay tribute," she said.

During the weekend of the fire, several APO members were staying in a nearby house for their pledge retreat.

The group met and interacted with the USC and Clemson students who died, and some even witnessed the fire, she said.

The proximity of UNC students to the tragedy is probably the reason for the greater public response on Chapel Hill's campus than Duke's, said the Rev. Craig Kocher, associate dean of the Duke Chapel. Kocher organized last spring's vigil for the Virginia Tech shooting.

"Personal relationships are so important in these things," he said.

In the past, Duke's campus has responded on a large scale to many tragic events. Recently held vigils and memorials include those for victims of the Virginia Tech massacre, Hurricane Katrina, and the southeast Asian tsunami.

Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs, said that Duke's more quiet response to the beach house fire tragedy is not a reflection of disinterest among students.

"There's a sense of numbing that goes on after a while," he said. "We hear of these tragedies so fast and so often from all corners of the world that it makes it difficult to know when and how to respond."

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