Post-Matthew: UNF alum returns to clean up favorite statue

Pierce Turner

 

UNF alumni Juan Carlos Villatoro came to campus to help clear debris from the Ghandi statue after Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Pierce Turner
UNF alumni Juan Carlos Villatoro came to campus to help clear debris from the Ghandi statue after Hurricane Matthew. Photo by Pierce Turner

Hurricane Matthew blew past UNF Friday, leaving most of the campus unharmed with the exception of a few fallen limbs and debris. One of the larger branches landed on the Gandhi statue in Peace Plaza.

This didn’t last long, however, as one man took it upon himself to clean up the mess.

That man was Juan Carlos Villatoro, a UNF alum who graduated in 2014 with an interdisciplinary studies degree. Villatoro was at home when his girlfriend sent him a picture of the statue, which was his favorite place to be on campus. Villatoro grabbed a chainsaw and came to UNF planning to fix the situation by himself.

Peace Plaza meant something special to Villatoro during his time at UNF. He would often go there to meditate. The statue gave him inspiration and motivation.

“It’s a place of hope,” Villatoro said. “Hope is genderless, raceless. We all share hope.”

For this reason, he felt like he had to do something about the branch that collapsed on the  statue.

Students relax in Peace Plaza after Villatoro removed the debris from the statue. Photo by Pierce Turner
Students relax in Peace Plaza after Villatoro removed the debris from the statue. Photo by Pierce Turner

I offered to help him and we worked together; he cut the tree and we both moved the limbs. Villatoro noticed that the large section of the tree that fell was already rotting and that Hurricane Matthew provided more than enough push to break it.

After about an hour we were able to clear up the courtyard and within minutes students were already hanging out in the plaza — as if the hurricane had never happened.

While working, Villatoro reflected on his time at UNF and said that if it wasn’t for the school and the people that believed in him when he was a student, he wouldn’t be where he is today.

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