By Alixandra Wilens
Members of the Hofstra community gathered on the evening of Thursday, Oct. 12, in front of Hofstra Hall for a candlelit Vigil for Peace in the wake of the mass shooting in Las Vegas. Two weeks earlier, 58 concertgoers lost their lives when a gunman opened fire on the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival on the Las Vegas Strip in Nevada.
The event was organized by the Student Government Association with the help of the Center for Civic Engagement and the Division of Student Affairs. “A senator on the Club Relations committee approached Chairperson [Aleksandra] Radeva with the idea to hold a vigil. Once we heard about it, [SGA Vice President] Abby [Normandin] and I met together and began the planning process,” said SGA President Rita Cinquemani, a senior accounting and political science major.
Los Angeles resident Sarah Mendoza, a senior mass media studies major at Hofstra, knew survivors and a victim who lost her life in the shooting. Since she could not attend the vigil back home, she went to Hofstra’s vigil but was disappointed by what she characterized as insincerity. “I think it was important that Hofstra went out of their way to put on this vigil, but it wasn’t well publicized,” Mendoza said. “I never got an email, and I actually found out through a friend that it was happening and that’s how I knew about it. Again, it could have been better executed, but the mere fact that they had it was good enough.”
The event, which was intended to promote empathy and comfort amongst students, began with opening remarks from Cinquemani and administration officials. “During tragic moments, togetherness is what really helps. It helps all of our families, it helps all of our friends and that’s all we’ve got,” said Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Sofia Pertuz.
Vice President of Student Affairs W. Houston Dougharty read a variation on the prayer of St. Francis, which calls for peace. “It’s always meaningful when we come together as a community, but I think it’s particularly meaningful when it’s students and student leaders who bring us together to support each other and to think about Hofstra as a community, but also [about] issues in the world at large,” Dougharty said. Several more poems about peace and life after tragedy were recited and then followed with a moment of silence.
“I think having the event at a venue right outside Hofstra Hall was the ideal environment to host something like this where people can all stand together [and] literally stand in solidarity,” said Jackson Spear, a senior English major.
The Vigil for Peace concluded with students signing a Banner for Peace while Cinquemani thanked those who gave their support to the arrangement of the vigil. “Change starts not with one person, but it is accomplished when there is unity and understanding,” Cinquemani said. “To those who have lost loved ones, we are all so deeply sorry for your loss; and to those who are still healing, know that you will always have a support system in our Pride.”