Boston College student Lauren Ruvo never thought twice about walking the mile or so to campus from the Cleveland Circle T stop at night. But, since the disappearance of fellow student Franco Garcia last week, she says now she’ll call a cab.
“Everyone is concerned," she said. "Chestnut Hill is supposed to be safe. I mean, everywhere has its issues, but I never really thought about walking alone before."
Garcia, a 21-year-old student studying chemistry, disappeared Feb. 22 after leaving Mary Ann's, a popular bar for students, sometime after midnight. He never returned to the West Newton home of his parents, where he lived.
In the wake of Garcia’s disappearance, several students said Friday that their image of the BC area as a safe environment has been shaken. Now, they’re not sure what to think.
“Overall, it feels normal, but there is a constant reminder that things are not completely normal because there is a student missing and nobody knows what happened," Ruvo said. "I’m more aware now that you’re not safe anywhere.”
Patrick Sherer, a junior biology major, agreed that the atmosphere on campus has changed.
“We’re a bit shaken up," he acknowledged. "We think we’re in a safe town, but you don’t know what can happen. It’s a bit of a wake-up call. Especially if we find there was some kind of foul play, you realize you’re not in this little bubble anymore."
Students said the lack of information surrounding the case is particularly disconcerting.
“Everyone feels like we’re being kept in the dark," Sherer said. "We just know they’re searching, but that’s it. We’re all worried."
On Feb. 29, Vice President for Student Affairs Patrick Rombalski sent out an email to students telling them that “law enforcement continues their search” for Garcia, but students said they have received most of their information through word-of-mouth and through Facebook and Twitter.
Campus buildings and residence halls are covered with pictures of Garcia and information on his disappearance. A Facebook page was set up for people to coordinate their search efforts and to share information. There are currently 2,710 members of the page.
Still, in the midst of midterm week, students must continue with their schoolwork and their lives. Most said they’re carrying on as normal, but are taking extra precautions to stay safe.
“You have to be a little more vigilant in terms of how you go out," said Akshay Tandon, a senior finance major. "Make sure you go with friends. Don’t walk in the reservoir alone at night. The level of being aware has gone up a bit. People are a bit on edge, but life goes on.”
Paulo Park, a junior communications major who frequents the bar Mary Ann’s, where Garcia was last seen, said he was in “shock” when he heard the news. But, he said he hasn’t changed his behavior much.
“I think about it, but it doesn’t make me change what I’m doing. I’m aware, but I’m not preoccupied with it,” he said. “It’s good to get the word out through Facebook, but it’s all we can really do.”
The college is offering spiritual and counseling services for students who feel they need it.
In Rombalski’s email to the college community, students were given a list of on campus resources and contact information, including the counseling center, campus ministry and residential life.
The email also gave students information on where to seek services outside of regular office hours.
Father Don MacMillan said campus ministry has dedicated its daily masses to Garcia and his family, and Saint Ignatius Church has also dedicated masses to Garcia.
"We have been seeing some of Franco's friends one on one and in small groups, chatting with them," MacMillan said.
He said meeting with students has been a little difficult because Friday was the last day of classes before spring break. He said the college still holds masses during school breaks and will continue to dedicate them to Garcia.
He said a prayer service was held at Saint Ignatius on Thursday night. Around 250 students, faculty and police attended the service.
This article is being published under an arrangement between the Boston Globe and Emerson College.