Hundreds gather at UCF to remember journalist Steven Sotloff

Published On: Sep 04 2014 06:32:29 AM EDT
Updated On: Sep 04 2014 06:33:38 AM EDT

Hundreds of students gathered on the University of Central Florida campus to remember murdered American journalist Steven Sotloff.

ORLANDO, Fla. -

Hundreds of students gathered on the University of Central Florida campus Wednesday night to remember murdered American journalist Steven Sotloff.

"He deserves it. He deserves to be recognized, remembered and to be commemorated in the right way, and this is definitely the right way," said student Ariel Gantman.

Candles were lit around the Reflection Pond on campus to honor Sotloff's courage.

The 31-year-old willingly put himself in harms way to expose the suffering of strangers in the Arab world.

Sotloff's career started at UCF, where he wrote for the school paper, the Central Florida Future, and played rugby.

His former teammate, Chris Nault, says even back then, Sotloff was set on reporting overseas.

"Very passionate about journalism, very young in college, that was his passion -- anybody would tell you that," he said.

Sotloff (pictured) is the second American journalist beheaded by the terror group after James Foley's killing last month. The executioner in the latest killing said it was a result of President Barack Obama's decision to conduct air strikes against the militant group in Iraq.

In the video distributed Tuesday and entitled "A Second Message to America," Sotloff appears in a similar jumpsuit before he is beheaded by an Islamic State fighter. U.S. intelligence officials confirmed Wednesday the video was authentic.

Obama promises to punish ISIS and students are waiting to see what that means.

"The most important thing is to come together. I think if we band against whoever is doing these types of things, unity is important," said Saba Ali, who participated in the moment of silence for Sotloff.

“Our UCF family mourns Steven’s death, and we join millions of people around the world who are outraged at this despicable and unjustifiable act," UCF President John C. Hitt said in a statement to Local 6.

A Sotloff family spokesman said Steven Sotloff's relatives were aware of the beheading video and are grieving. Last week, Sotloff's mother Shirley Sotloff released a video pleading with ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi not to kill her son.

Sotloff, who freelanced for Time and Foreign Policy magazines, had last been seen in Syria in August 2013 until he appeared in a video released online last month by the Islamic State group that showed the beheading of fellow American journalist James Foley.

Students placed their candles at the edge of the pond before leaving the vigil.

"Every human being has a light that's within them -- his light shines bright, shines the brightest," said Gantman.

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