WYOMING, Ohio (WDTN) – The heartbroken community of Wyoming, Ohio is finding strength in each other Thursday as Otto Warmbier is laid to rest. The 22-year-old American college student and Cincinnati native died Monday just days following his release from North Korea after being detained there for more than a year.
People we spoke with say it was a day of mixed emotions–sadness over Warmbier’s death, but celebration for the 22 years he spent on this earth. It wasn’t but a few minutes before Wyoming High School reached it’s maximum capacity of 2,500 people, leading some to instead show their support along the route of the procession.
A somber whistling of bag pipes could be heard as the casket of 22-year-old Otto Warmbier is placed in a hearse, bound for his final resting place.
“He left his mark,” Dean Gaudin said. “Friend of the community and his classmates and his people that he touched.”
A young and bright soul, who was loved by many in the small community of Wyoming, Ohio. Thousands of people could be seen lining the streets showing their support for a family undergoing the unimaginable.
“He was out-going,” Sen. Rob Portman said. “Athletic, bright, curious.”
That curiously and adventurous spirit led him to take a trip to North Korea with a Chinese tour group back in January 2016. But, that voyage later turned into a nightmare for his family when the University of Virginia student was accused of stealing a propaganda poster from his hotel. A North Korean court sentenced him to 15 years of hard labor in March.
He was never heard from again until just weeks ago–when his family got word of his release.
“People from all over this country and around the world are holding his family up I pray today,” Sen. Rob Portman said. “The family is remarkable they’ve been resilient through an ordeal that no family should have to go through.”
His family stayed by his side at UC Medical Center in the days following his release–where he remained in a coma. Doctors say Warmbier returned to the U.S. in a state of unresponsive wakefulness, which is a new medical term for persistent vegetative state and was suffering from a several neurological injury.
Wyoming resident D’Shon Shapiro says she was touched Otto Warmbier she’s raised over $10,000 as part of a memorial fund.
“He was a personality,” D’Shon Shapiro said. “Who people noticed because he was beyond his years and had an amazing affect with adults.”