NORTHPORT, Ala– Six days after an EF-4 tornado ripped through the center of Tuscaloosa, hundreds gathered to remember one of the six University of Alabama students whose lives were lost in the storm.
Marcus J. Smith, a junior majoring in management information systems, was not just a student at the University, but also an active member of The Church of Christ at Northwood, which held tonight’s 90-minute service that was marked by music, ministry and messages of hope, even in the face of tragedy.
“Marcus knew where his heart and treasure lie– with God in heaven,” said Gary Holliday, one of three members of Smith’s college Bible class, who gave reflections during the service.
From beginning to end, speaker after speaker used their reflection to provide a scripturally-based ministry message on such things as humility, servanthood and Godly relationships– all things Marcus Smith reflected in his 21-year life, which was cut short by last Wednesday’s storm.
In a statement on its Web site, Northwood’s Church of Christ reported that Smith was found last week in the remains of his Tuscaloosa apartment.
“We take comfort in knowing that Marcus loved the Lord, and in our trust in a faithful and loving God. We will miss the loving smile and kind words that Marcus always had for us, but we know that Marcus is now in the arms of Jesus,” the statement read.
Tonight’s memorial service will be followed by a funeral and burial on Saturday in Smith’s hometown of Richmond, Va.
Smith was the one of two out-of-state University of Alabama students who perished in the April 27 tornado. The University created a special memorial Web site to remember all six students who died.
Tonight’s service came just an hour after Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, during a 6 p.m. address to a joint session of the Alabama Legislature, paid tribute to those whose lives were lost.
“Tonight we grieve with the families of those who lost their lives last week,” Bentley said.
Even though Smith was from Virginia, the service this evening was a chance for those who were touched by his Marcus Smith here in Tuscaloosa, to reflect on his legacy.
“Marcus was a great example for so many,” said David Huggins, who challenged the more than 300 who attended tonight’s service to make the most of their relationship. “Don’t let Marcus’ death go in vain.”
An Athlete & Servant
Among those speaking at the service, Tyler Loveless, who had known Smith for three years and testified to his humility and modest attitude even on the football field when the two would play Friday afternoon games.
“Marcus may not have washed anyone’s feet, but he certainly cleansed many hearts by his example,” Loveless said.
Two Smith Families Mourn
There were, in fact, two Smith families mourning Marcus Smith’s death. The Richmond native left behind his mother and father and brother. But, his girlfriend, Katie Smith and her parents were just as involved in Smith’s life in recent years.
“What I saw as a father was that Katie was being influenced for good by Marcus,” said Tim Smith, whose reflections on behalf of both families capped the evening of remembrances. ”I saw Marcus develop into a leader.”
Among those saying prayers this evening was Barry Mason, dean of the University of Alabama’s College of Commerce and Business Administration. Four of the students who died in the tornado were students enrolled in Mason’s college.