Community Commemorates Lives Lost in Parkland

About 60 Emory and Atlanta community members attend a vigil for the 17 lives lost in the Parkland, Fla., high school mass shooting at Cox Bridge on Feb. 16./Forrest Martin, Staff

About 60 Emory and Atlanta community members mourned the 17 lives lost and discussed gun control laws at a Feb. 16 vigil on Cox Bridge for the Parkland, Fla., high school mass shooting.

“We stand here together today to pay homage to the 17 individuals that lost their lives to gun violence this week,” Student Government Association (SGA) Sophomore Representative Johnna Gadomski (20C) said. “But we also stand here today to remember the 430 people that have been killed in school shootings since Sandy Hook Elementary School.”

Nikolas Cruz, 19, who has been expelled from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, stormed the high school on Valentine’s Day with a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle, killing 17 students and employees total, according to The New York Times. He faces 17 counts of premeditated murder, the Times reported. The fatal shootings have sparked nationwide protests, and students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School went to Tallahassee, Fla., to call for a ban on assault rifles Tuesday, according to the Times.

SGA and the Office of Spiritual and Religious Life (OSRL) hosted the vigil, which lasted about 15 minutes. Amid the glow of the attendees’ candles, OSRL Assistant Chaplain Kevin Crawford led the group in prayer.

“These are the kind of things that show us we are bound together, and in that binding we find ourselves discovering light,” Crocker said. “With our thoughts, with our meditation and with our prayers cause us to cease suffering in all its forms and inspire with us the will to be liked as movements of compassion oppressing darkness.”

After the prayer, local Atlanta resident Adam Marc Leonard, an alumnus of the affected high school, shared his thoughts with the crowd on how the shooting personally affected him.

“[It is] still so surreal seeing your school all over the news,” Leonard said. “I hope none of y’all experience that. … Hopefully these things stop.”

After a moment of silence to commemorate the victims, Gadomski reminded attendees that the Florida shooting is not the only recent mass shooting.

“[Gun violence] is not normal. It is not acceptable, and we’ll fight the trend in gun violence that has created a situation in the past two years that we’ve seen the top five deadly shootings in U.S. history,” Gadomski said. “Despite this dreadful pattern … we must let our sorrow empower us to engage in difficult conversations about how to prevent such unspeakable violence.”

The White House released a Feb. 15 statement from President Donald J. Trump, in which he sent his support to the families who lost their loved ones.

“We are committed to working with state and local leaders to help secure our schools, and tackle the difficult issue of mental health,” the statement reads.

Trump’s statement did not mention gun control.

Dom Refuerzo (20C), who attended the vigil, told the Wheel that he was pleased that SGA held a vigil for the mass shooting.

“I think [the vigil] needed to happen,” Refuerzo said. “Even though it happened not on this campus, it’s something we can empathize with because they are students like us.”

Ethan Mock (20C), another attendee, said he appreciated that this vigil allowed people to grieve and pay their respects to the victims’ lives.

“All these dead [people] deserve to be respected and have a moment for them,” Mock said. “I appreciate the initiative [from SGA] because it helps get a lot of us out of our dark, little corners where we’re finding our comfort.”