Hundreds of people gathered in the atrium of Erasmus MC on Thursday afternoon to commemorate the shocking events that took place exactly one week ago. Surrounded by flowers and a sea of people, Joke Boonstra, the vice chair of the Executive Board of Erasmus MC, led the memorial service.

She reflected on the death of the three victims who were killed last Thursday and on the traumatic incident that had affected students and staff at Erasmus MC. “Our dear and cheerful colleague was murdered while teaching a class. Students, some of whom are just starting out, have seen things no one should ever have to encounter. And all those horrific events took place at our Erasmus MC: a place that is supposed to be a safe place for patients, staff and students. What followed was disbelief, dismay and sadness. But we have also seen a deep sense of solidarity in our community, as well as a powerful need to hold on to one another.”

A poem about feeling safe

After Boonstra’s speech, Lluisa Paredes, a Master’s student at Codarts, performed a piece on the cello. The music reverberated through the atrium of Erasmus MC and triggered the emotions of those present. A patient on an IV standing in front of the podium wiped away her tears, with behind her a lecturer who had attempted to guide students to safety at the learning centre last Thursday. The man was brought to tears again, finding support from those around him.

Halfway through the piece, medical student Noor de Wijs recited a poem she wrote about the incident. Her poem was widely circulated on social media last week. “I couldn’t sleep on Thursday night. That’s when I wrote the poem, to get that day out of my head”, she said after the service. “I was on holiday in Hawaii with my family this past summer; we were forced to flee the forest fires. After that shock, all I wanted was to feel safe and at home again. The EMC has felt like home for the past three years. Some weeks, I’m there more often than I am at my actual home. That feeling of security is gone now – that’s what the poem is about.”

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Noor’s poem is placed near the flowers at Erasmus MC. Image credit: Daan Stam


At 14.29 p.m. exactly, musician Hans de Munnik stood up and sounded the trumpet, followed by silence. This was exactly one week after that horrific moment when the much-beloved lecturer Jurgen Damen was killed. Many in the crowd were in tears, with occasionally audible sobs. Colleagues held hands, put their heads on each other’s shoulders and embraced one another. Others stood with their hands folded, their gaze fixed on the ground or at the immense Duna. At 14.31, the piercing sound of the trumpet once again sounded across the atrium. Every now and then, a smile broke across people’s faces.

Last week’s shooting was likewise commemorated at the Woudestein campus. In the presence of Rector Magnificus Annelien Bredenoord and Ellen van Schoten, the vice president of the Executive Board, a group of over twenty university staff members held a minute’s silence at 14.30. The Executive Board had requested that lectures be suspended for the memorial. Carillonneur Mathieu Polak then played the carillon.

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Employees hold a minute of silence at the Erasmus statue in the Erasmus Building. Image credit: Kim Casamitjana

After the ceremony, Van Schoten looked back on the past week, where Thursday afternoon suddenly descended into crisis mode following the news of the shooting at Erasmus MC. For a brief time, there were fears that the Woudestein campus might likewise become a target, but that belief was quickly dispelled. The university subsequently offered practical assistance in the form of additional student psychologists and making teaching spaces available where necessary.


Last Thursday, Bredenoord was at a conference for all the universities in the Netherlands when she heard the news about the shooting. “The bizarre thing is that Queen Máxima had spoken about the well-being of students and the need for open communication on the issue that very morning. When I heard the news, I immediately got in a taxi and drove back to Rotterdam.”

The Rector is impressed by the resilience and solidarity between the university and Erasmus MC. “It’s truly wonderful to see everyone supporting one another.” She also believes it is vital to emphasise that the university is an open institution – and that it will remain so. “It’s our job to ensure that the fear dissipates and that everyone once again feels safe. What happened is such an extreme case. It’s not something we can protect ourselves against.”

The Living Room is also set to be open during the open day this Saturday, and student hosts will be on hand who will be able to respond to any questions about the shooting.