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Boise State in Mourning: The 'Sad, Trembling, Confusing Reality' That Sierra/Simon Bush is Gone

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Tangible sorrow filled the Jordan Ballroom at Boise State University Wednesday night, one day after the campus community learned the body of 18-year-old student Sierra Bush had been discovered in a remote area of Boise County. Though her legal name is Sierra, most people knew the cheerful member of the Honors College as Simon. Bush had been missing since Sept. 24.

“Today we live in the sad, trembling, confusing reality of realizing that Sierra/Simon is really gone,” said Honors College Dean Dr. Andrew Finstuen. “We hoped for safety, we hoped for return… we didn’t get what we hoped for.”

Dr. Andrew Finstuen, Boise State Honors College dean, remembers Sierra/Simon Bush at the Oct. 26 memorial. - ALEXANDRA NELSON
  • Alexandra Nelson
  • Dr. Andrew Finstuen, Boise State Honors College dean, remembers Sierra/Simon Bush at the Oct. 26 memorial.
Remembered as a bright light on campus, Bush was a member of the Creative Writers Outlet Club, a small writing group on campus. According to club President Micaela Smith, Bush could be “sarcastic, witty, off-topic and razor sharp”―the perfect embodiment of the group’s ideals, she added. Two fellow classmates, who identified themselves as Ally and Danielle, said Bush shared a dream with them to someday “run a small bookstore and live in a flat above it, with some cats and some tea." Bush was a 4.0 student.

"Sierra/Simon was going into aerospace engineering someday; she could do anything," Bush's friends said. "But all she really wanted was to run a bookstore. [Her dream] was so simple and beautiful.”

Many who attended the Oct. 26 remembrance wore pins in the shape of miniature bow ties―Bush's signature fashion accessory―which had been crafted by the staff of Boise State’s Gender Equity Center. Samantha McGraw, who said she was Bush's longtime best friend, was one of a half dozen people who also sported custom-made T-Shirts reading “Let’s Get Weird” in their friend's honor.

“Sierra/Simon was all about embracing who you are,” said McGraw, who added Bush slipped between gender identities and pronouns as easily as most of us choose an outfit for the day.

Samantha McGraw (left) and a fellow student, identified only as Andy (right), sport "Let's Get Weird" T-shirts in honor of Sierra/Simon Bush. - ALEXANDRA NELSON
  • Alexandra Nelson
  • Samantha McGraw (left) and a fellow student, identified only as Andy (right), sport "Let's Get Weird" T-shirts in honor of Sierra/Simon Bush.
“Something she said often was, ‘If I can be as weird as I am, you can definitely be as you as you are. You have to be with yourself 24/7,'" McGraw said. " She would say, 'If you don’t like who you are, you can change who you are.'”

McGraw said she took comfort in the fact that her friend would live on in her own thoughts and actions.

“Anytime that I look at someone and think to myself 'Be proud of who you are,' well, that’s Sierra,” she said. “Every time you share a kind word, even a witty joke, some sarcastic remark, you are channeling Sierra. You are doing what she doesn’t get to do any more, and I thank you for that. “

The Boise State campus will again honor Bush on Friday, Oct. 28, which has been set aside as Bow Tie Day, when many students, educators and staff members are expected to wear bow ties and/or bow tie pins in Bush's memory. Multicultural Student Services will also create an altar dedicated to Sierra/Simon as a part of its upcoming Dia de Los Muertos celebration.

Boise State Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Leslie Webb said that despite the fact of Bush's death, the gathering gave her hope that “community has been built upon a harrowing and tragic situation.”

A formal memorial service for Sierra/Simon Bush will take place at 2 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 29 at the King of Glory Lutheran Church (3430 N. Maple Grove Road). Additionally, a GoFundMe account has been established to lend financial support to the Bush family to help finance the memorial.

- The body of Sierra/Simon Bush, an 18-year-old Boise State student, was discovered Oct. 25 in a rural area south of Idaho City. -  - BOISE POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • Boise Police Department
  • The body of Sierra/Simon Bush, an 18-year-old Boise State student, was discovered Oct. 25 in a rural area south of Idaho City.