ROCKVILLE, Md. — After watching his daughter’s accused killer ordered held without bond, Mark Wallen and his wife walked out of the District Courthouse in Montgomery County and were met by a group of reporters.
Before addressing the anguish of losing 31-year-old Laura Wallen, whose body was discovered in a shallow grave on Wednesday, Wallen said he wanted to mention “the beauty and kindness of humanity and all the wonderful people who have lifted us up.”
Wallen thanked the Montgomery County Police, his faith community and businesses who contributed to a reward for information in Laura Wallen’s case.
And then he thanked a former student of Wallen’s, Lindsay Murray. Murray, now a freshman at Towson University, made a YouTube tribute video to Laura Wallen, a teacher loved by students for her warmth and humor.
Mark Wallen called the video “the sweetest tribute to my daughter that any parent could hope for.”
The video, entitled “My Teacher Is Missing” was made in an attempt to help bring Laura Wallen home at a time when she was reported missing. The video was posted on Monday, Sept. 11. Wallen’s body was discovered Sept. 13.
In the video, a tearful Murray, seated in her dorm room at Towson, looks into the camera and says: “Something has really close to me has happened to me, and as you can see,” her voice breaking, “I really can’t talk about it. So I figured I would show you guys in the one way I know how.”
The video then includes headlines from local news stations explaining that Laura Wallen, a Wilde Lake High School teacher, had gone missing.
In the vidoe, former and current students at Wilde Lake share memories of Wallen, whose impact is obvious as teenagers tell of how she noticed their moods, met their needs and inspired them to look to their futures.
Murray, sometimes smiling through tears, sometimes breaking down into sobs, says “I instantly fell in love with her bubbly personality, her welcoming smile. She’s the kind of teacher that really genuinely cares about her students, and we all care about her.”
The video cuts to a number of students, one by one explaining the impact Wallen has had on their lives. One current student, Dashae Coley-Epps, explains she never had Ms. Wallen as a teacher, but found Wallen to be someone she could talk to. “You always knew when I was upset about something.”
Coley-Epps said that Wallen would ask her how she was doing — how she was really doing, instinctively knowing when to give a hug. Coley-Epps, stopping to wipe tears from behind her glasses, adds, “You’d always pull me into a really tight hug — which I could use right now.” The teenager continues, her eyes brimming with tears: “You really do make a difference in people’s lives.”
Natalie Varela, like Murray now in college and taping her tribute from her dorm room, said that Ms. Wallen was an inspiration to her, pushing her academically.
“Hands down, I can say I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for her love and support during those years,” she says in the video.
Lauryn Bowes, now studying at Julliard, said Wallen was like a second mother to her students. While the tribute video was made while Wallen was missing and presumed still alive, Bowes’ statements are especially wrenching.”The community’s been rocked, because she’s so important and special and not like any person I’ve ever met before. When you lose somebody, you can’t seem to feel comfort from anyone unless it’s that person that’s gone. And that’s something I’ve been feeling.”
At the end of the video, Murray recalls: “We called her Ballin’Wallen because she was so cool and funny. We’re gonna find her and we’re gonna bring her home.”
Contacted Friday, after police released more details in the case, Murray described the loss of Wallen in an email to WTOP: “It has been very brutal and I have been a wreck.” But Murray added, “I love and miss her so much it hurts, however I know she will be looking down and watching over all of us now. I love you Ms. Wallen, forever and always!”
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