Prayer vigil for Pittsburgh hosted at Edinboro University

Category:  News
Wednesday, November 14th, 2018 at 6:57 PM

People within and outside the Edinboro community were encouraged to be “stronger than hate” during a vigil focusing on the tragedy that occurred in Pittsburgh in late October.  

Held by the Center for Diversity and Inclusion in multipurpose room (MPR) A of Pogue Student Center, participants paid tribute and offered their thoughts regarding both those lost and affected by a shooting that took place at the Tree of Life synagogue in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  

At 9:54 a.m. on Oct. 27, an armed citizen entered the synagogue and began shooting while shouting anti-Semitic remarks. This resulted in the deaths of 11 people, non-fatal injuries to seven (including four police officers and the shooter) and ended at 11:08 a.m. with the suspect’s surrender. 

Caleb Richardson III, an Edinboro graduate assistant working for the center who planned the vigil, first played a video created by the National Hockey League (NHL) called “Stronger Than Hate,” which is available on their website, nhl.com. It ends with the words: “We are Pittsburgh. We are proud. And we stand together.” 

A moment of silence, which also involved reading the names of the 11 victims, was held afterward. 

Edinboro’s interim provost Dr. James Fisher was one of the featured speakers. He said that one of the best things that can be done as a community is “offer our actions.” Fisher noted two particularly important actions that should take effect.  

The first is political action such as voting, and the second is modeling values of a decent society, like compassion. He also quoted poet Lucille Clifton with her purpose statement of, “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,” referring to being both supportive and truthful when necessary. 

Petrina Marrero, director of the center, shared a poem called “Love is Stronger Than Hate” by Princess Corazon, which captured significant attention.  

Marrero was pleased with the turnout of the event and said that both it and the center are here to support all students, faculty and staff regardless of any differences. She felt that this vigil stands out because people “can see how the tragedy affected anyone” and that it was “about the human experience.” 

Program pamphlets contained a quote from cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, which read: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” 

Sam Comfort, the executive assistant to the vice president at Edinboro University and a Pittsburgh native, said that it felt “bittersweet” to be present. Comfort has returned to the area since the event and has sensed a difference in the atmosphere. “You can feel it in the city,” he said, while noting Pittsburgh’s resilience, which was represented in the statement #PittsburghProud on the event flyer.  

David Fulford, a professor in the biology department at Edinboro and the faculty advisor for Chi Alpha, a Christian campus organization, said that he came to support the students, and would tell those not present to “live the love that’s in [their] heart.” 

Garth Griffin, a freshman, felt that the vigil was “a very good experience,” serving as a chance for people to express themselves.  

Richardson III was pleased with the level of participation, although others felt that it could have been larger.  

“It was good for the size that it was,” said Margeaux Dase, a student and Chi Alpha leader, who also felt that each of the speakers and their messages were impactful. “I hate living in a world of violence. I would like to create a world of peace,” she said. 

Student Caitlyn Garczewski, also Chi Alpha member, shared that the vigil made her think about what happened a lot more, and that it reinstated the truth that this type of hate and violence can happen anywhere.

Opening and closing prayers were conducted by student Jonathan Mendoza, who feels that events like the vigil serve as a catalyst to the mission of Chi Alpha, which includes reconciling students to Christ along with calling them to the community and pouring into the lives of peers.

Richardson III made a point that knowing the person(s) affected does not matter and that we must “come together as a campus, as a community, and as a nation,” every day, not just when tragedies happen. “We’ll work through this,” he said upon conclusion.

Students and faculty are encouraged to talk to others including groups such as Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Center for Diversity and Inclusion and Chi Alpha.

Amber Chisholm can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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