As politicians and the public continue to process the death of Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old American citizen who spent more than a year in the North Korean prison system for allegedly attempting to steal a propaganda poster during a visit with a tour group in 2016, his friends and loved ones paid homage to him on Tuesday night.
Alex Vagonis, Warmbier’s college girlfriend, was among the hundreds of friends and classmates who attended a candlelight vigil held at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Virginia.
During an emotional speech before the crowd, Vagonis described Warmbier as her “soulmate” and said that she took comfort in the fact that he was able to be home with his family before he died.
“Being with Otto made life all the more beautiful and worth living. He was my soulmate on so many levels and I truly believe that he helped me become a better human being, the person that I am today,” Vagonis said during the emotional event. “And it wasn’t just my life he made more colorful, but everyone else’s.”
She went on to say that, despite Warmbier’s death, it is important for those who loved him to persevere and move forward.
“To do otherwise would just be an insult to Otto, knowing that he always wanted to see others fly,” Vagonis told those gathered.
In the end, she said that she found peace in the fact that Warmbier was about to “be back where he belonged before he passed.” Other friends also shared their fond memories of a young man who died far too soon.
As Faithwire previously reported, Warmbier, an American citizen, died on June 19 after spending more than a year detained by North Korea. The young man went to North Korea in January 2016 on a sightseeing tour. After his arrest for allegedly taking down a propaganda poster inside of a hotel, he was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor by North Korea.
While he was finally released by North Korea and taken to the U.S. earlier this month, his medical condition was dire. Doctors said Warmbier had extensive brain damage, calling his condition a “state of unresponsive wakefulness,” as Fox News reported.
It is unclear what exactly happened to the 22-year-old in North Korea. While officials there said he had fallen into a coma after contracting botulism, doctors in the U.S. detected no such thing in his system and said he had clearly lost blood supply to his brain. The exact cause of his medical state before his death is not known.