After what’s been named as the deadliest shooting in modern American history, the Fairfield University Student Association, Campus Ministry, school administration and Student Affairs responded with a vigil for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting that occurred on Oct. 1. A man fired into the crowd of the Route 91 Harvest Festival from the 32nd floor of a nearby hotel, leaving 59 people dead and 527 people injured.
Upon arrival, students were given a candle with the name of a victim from the shooting. They were told that later in the program, they would be asked to say the name of the victim out loud. FUSA president Cara Gibbons ‘18 started the program by welcoming everyone who came, saying, “it’s times like these that we need to look to each other in our community and turn to love.”
Campus Minister Katie Byrnes then said an opening prayer and Campus Minister Kevin Molloy read from the Book of Habakkuk 1:14 and 2:1-4. Byrnes then spoke again, offering students three ways to pray for Las Vegas. She encouraged students to “turn away from the news and turn towards prayer,” because prayer “is central to our Christian life.” This is the first thing people can do, according to Byrnes: “pray for the victims.” The second way, she proposes, is to “pray for our civil leaders.” Despite the political division in our country today, she explained that our leaders “are not only grieving as we are, but they’re responsible to lead in the aftermath.” She asked that everyone pray for the Las Vegas sheriff, the Las Vegas mayor, the Nevada governor and President Donald Trump. Her third way is to “pray for those who are hurting.”
After Byrnes finished, Campus Minister Fiona Shovlin and Muslim Chaplain Nargis Alizada ‘12 led the students through another prayer. Then students went around reading the names of the victims off of their candles. Many tears were shed and after all names were read, closing prayers were read and moments of silence were held before students blew out their candles.
Gibbons said, “FUSA felt impelled to do something because it’s important for students, faculty, staff, and administration to understand that it’s OK to feel upset, it’s OK to be angry, and an event such as a vigil makes people come together and recognize that they’re not the only ones having these feelings. It brings together unity and love, and we want to spread that on campus. It makes people recognize that they’re not alone and that, together, change can be implemented and we can see a better America.”
She continued, “It was a horrific event that happened and that’s why we wanted to bring attention to it, be a support system and inform people on what was actually occurring.”
FUSA Vice President Molly Strang ‘18 followed up by saying, “I think we’ve grown numb to these things and I think it’s important to bring attention to them and stop thinking that this is normal. We need to do something about it.”
Sophomore Aileen Morley-McLaughlin spoke of the importance of the vigil, “I am really glad that the school did something. I think it’s important to acknowledge what’s going on because it can happen anywhere, even on our own campus,” said Morley-McLaughlin. “What really gets me the most is the 59 people that aren’t returning to their families and the 59 families that are now missing a loved one. It’s hard stuff to talk about so I think people avoid it, but like Ellen Degeneres said ‘be angry, be sad … but just care.’ I was also happy to see how many people were there; it had to be at least 80.”
Sophomore Hope Bahnke agreed with Morley-McLaughlin, saying, “I really liked the event. It brought a sense of peace and unity to me because the community came together and the turnout made me happy because many people came to show support.”