'Friends' exhibit still resonates

NORWICH – Almost everything has a price, including a formal education. But in losing their lives in November 2000, after unknowingly climbing into a vehicle manned by a drunk driver on the Colgate University campus in Hamilton, Norwich High School graduates Emily Collins, Katherine Almeter and Rachel Nargiso placed a priceless value on their memories, and the education they now provide.

Since 2003, their story – along with Kevin King’s, who was also killed in the one-vehicle accident – has been told at a number of colleges and universities, as well as other institutions, in an exhibit depicting the everyday intricacies of their personalities, relationships and the choices that led to all four of their untimely deaths, titled “Friends.”

“It shows their life, that they were real people,” said Rita Ashton, Nargiso’s mother. “There isn’t a student that didn’t walk out of that exhibit that couldn’t relate to them as students – you relate to them as people.”

Almeter’s father, Robert, said the exhibit’s collection of personal artifacts create a mystical quality in “Friends” that bonds visitors to the four victims, using the one thing they all had in common, life.

“Life is so precious. That is what’s so powerful. It’s message is almost subliminal,” Robert said. “It shows that life is something beautiful, something precious – and something fragile.”

However, of the 27 higher education institutions, high schools, and events the exhibit has been booked for since it opened at Siena College in November 2003, it has never been viewed at Colgate.

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