Virginia Tech may be more than 200 miles away from Foggy Bottom, but it felt close to home Tuesday night as students sought comfort in each other at a candlelight vigil.
The remembrance packed the standing-room-only Marvin Center Grand Hall with an estimated 400 people in attendance. Organizers, which included student leaders and administrators, provided a place for students to reflect, pray, and share their thoughts and concerns about the tragedy at Virginia Tech Monday morning when a gunman killed at least 30 students and faculty members.
“It’s overwhelming to see,” said Tim Miller, executive director of the Student Activities Center, reflecting on the outpouring of student support and the immediate response of the Student Association and Program Board.
Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said he was not surprised by the support students demonstrated.
“I think you can see by the size of the crowds that students feel strongly and need an output for their feelings,” he said.
Senior Maria Bea Querido, chair of Program Board, said more than 1,000 students had picked up maroon and orange ribbons, the colors of Virginia Tech, from Marvin Center Tuesday afternoon to wear.
A 10-foot banner was out during the vigil, and hundreds of students signed their names and wrote notes to the Virginia Tech community. The banner will be delivered to the campus later this week.
Several leaders including Thorpe and University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg shared their reactions to the tragedy before religious leaders led three prayers.
A candle-lighting ceremony in Kogan Plaza followed the event.
“We all have been directly or indirectly affected,” said Thorpe in his opening remarks at the ceremony. “Some of us may have lost a friend, but all of us lost 33 fellow collegians.”
Throughout the night, students shared how the tragedy personally affected them.
“My friend’s brother, Kyle Andrews, goes to Virginia Tech,” said freshman Alexandra Sheedy, who went to show her support. Andews, a junior, had been in one of the targeted classrooms, but had left early after finishing his exam.
“It was really horrible at first hearing about it,” she said. “When I heard that my friend was there it added a lot more to it – it was a lot more nerve-wracking.”
Speakers at the vigil emphasized the connection felt across campuses.
“There is no Virginia Tech, no GW or University of California; we are all enrolled in a common university,” Trachtenberg said.
Students began calling the SA office nonstop midday Monday asking what the University was doing about the tragedy and how they could become involved, Thorpe said. The event was planned in about 24 hours, starting on Monday evening.
“We all wanted to do something,” Querido said. “I knew a lot of people needed a place to come to express their thoughts and feelings.”
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