A yoga solidarity event on Nov. 3, 2018 in downtown Tallahassee brought together community members.
Special to the Tallahassee Democrat
Maura Binkley was hoping to get a job with Teach for America. The 21-year-old Florida State student was working on a lesson plan and had just asked her mom for advice on the right thing to wear for her interview. She wanted to nail it.
“She just wanted to help other people,” said her dad Jeff Binkley. “That’s all she ever wanted to do.”
His bright, beautiful only daughter was killed Friday evening when a gunman opened fire at Hot Yoga Tallahassee on Thomasville Road. It was a place she would go to maintain a balanced workout, something that was important to her.
Dr. Nancy Van Vessem, who was one of 10 others in the 5:30 p.m. class, also was killed. Five others were injured. The gunman killed himself after the shooting.
Binkley said Tallahassee police told him the incident was a random act. On Saturday, he and his wife, Margaret, drove to Tallahassee from the family’s hometown of Atlanta to meet in person with investigators.
“She hated gun violence so much,” said Binkley, 61, the same age as Van Vessem, who was fatally wounded alongside his daughter.
Binkley recalled earlier this year when he and Maura ran into the father of one of the victims of the Parkland high school mass shooting. They crossed paths in the lobby of a Tallahassee hotel when students and families came to the Capitol to protest gun violence.
“We just talked about how horrible and senseless this was, not ever dreaming that later it would be us,” he said.
A fourth generation legacy student at FSU, Maura was studying German and editing, writing and media. She was supposed to graduate in May.
“She was always kind and smiled at everyone,” said Santina Deming, who was in a rhetoric class with Maura. “She was always leading the conversation in class and was very intelligent.”
Maura wanted a profession where she could write and help others. She volunteered teaching a literacy program. Eventually, she wanted to go on to graduate school and was considering a career in government affairs or at an international organization.
During the spring semester, she spent five months at the University of Wuppertal in Germany. She traveled to pretty much every country in Europe, her dad said.
Maura was a member of Delta Delta Delta sorority. On the chapter’s website, she’s listed as the vice president of chapter development. She was a Panhellenic representative, the standards chair and a rush counselor.
The sorority was devastated by the news.
“As a leader in our chapter, Maura embodied the Tri Delta woman – brave, bold and kind,” said Tri Delta’s International President Kimberlee Sullivan in a statement.
“Our hearts are with her family, our sisters and the FSU community during this difficult time. We are grateful for the outpouring of support as we honor Maura’s life, and we respectfully ask for privacy as we grieve this tragic loss.”
Maura was close with her parents and 25-year-old brother Sean who lived in Atlanta. She listened to National Public Radio with her dad, something they did together since he took her to school in the second grade. She loved to cook. During her last conversation she had with her mom, she was asking for a recipe for pumpkin bread.
The family vacationed together in Seaside the first weekend of October to celebrate Margaret’s 58th birthday. Maura was there for the weekend and returned to FSU Oct. 9. A day later, with Hurricane Michael barreling toward Florida, she went home to Atlanta for a few days. Maura left to go back to school Oct. 14.
That was the last time her family saw her.
“I want people to know that she loved everyone. She believed in living her life for others,” her dad said as he drove to Tallahassee. “One of her greatest wishes was simply for peace, that the senseless violence would stop.”
Contact Ashley White at email@example.com or on Twitter @AshleyyDi.
A ‘senseless act’
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