LONDON — Sarah Everard, like so many others, had a difficult year in 2020. A long-term relationship fell apart, and she lost her job when the company she worked for hit the rocks.
Still, she had stayed positive and active, throwing herself into online exercise classes and remaining a steadfast supporter to friends struggling through an equally arduous time. Lately, those friends said, things had been looking up, and she was eagerly anticipating post-pandemic life.
She was seeing someone new, and she was eager to travel again, to see family in York in northern England and to reconnect with friends. She had just started a new job.
So when Ms. Everard didn’t come home on March 3, a Wednesday night, they knew something was wrong. She had made a phone call to her new boyfriend as she walked from a friend’s house, and then she vanished. It was 9:30 p.m.
became a rallying cry for a broad movement to combat pervasive, longstanding violence against women in Britain — a symbol of all those of who have been attacked, so many of whose cases have gone largely unnoticed.
Amid the national attention, her friends and family have been left to privately mourn a woman, just 33, who had been taken far too soon. They described someone of warmth and empathy, always ready to listen to a friend’s troubles and offer support, a woman who also did not fully appreciate just how smart she was.
“She was sunshine and light, and made you feel warm and good and safe,” said Holly Morgan, who met Ms. Everard through work in London years ago. “I feel angry about it as well, but my main anger is that it happened to her.”
The news of Ms. Everard’s disappearance spread quickly online, first among friends and family — a network that stretched from her hometown near York to a web of friends from her college years and colleagues in London. They collectively worried about her, amplifying calls for information. Many desperately puzzled over how this could be happening to their Sarah.
wrote in a post last week, on International Women’s Day.
Then, as the news came that a police officer had been arrested in her death, the messages turned to memorials, and her story grew from personal pain to national reckoning. As flowers pile up at a bandstand in Clapham Common in south London, near where she disappeared, and protesters silently raise fists outside government buildings in remembrance of Ms. Everard, those closest to her are still trying to make sense of things.
For many, their friend’s transformation into a national symbol has complicated their own raw feelings of grief.
“In the uproar of what Sarah’s death is being taken to represent,” as one friend, India Rose, described it, she had struggled to find words to pay proper tribute to a woman she knew as “open, honest,” and “unflinching in her ability to listen and empathize.”
“We shared a lot, and I was never in any doubt of her discretion or sincerity in her support and kindness,” Ms. Rose said on Facebook.