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NYU community gathers to hold vigil for Newtown victims

Posted on December 18, 2012 | by Julie DeVito

Over a hundred students and staff members filled the grand staircase in the NYU Kimmel Center Monday evening to hold a vigil for the victims of the tragic shooting last week in Newtown, Connecticut.

Yael Shy, director of the Mindfulness project at

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NYU, helped organize the event over the past few days.

“A lot of people, including myself have been walking around with a lot of grief and a lot of feelings of just incredible empathy and sadness for the community there and for the families that have lost people, and really just for society,” Shy said. “We felt this desire to come together from our different traditions and places in life to offer prayers and thoughts for the community.”

With a calm voice, Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, director of the Bronfman Center at NYU, moderated the evening.

“Of course there’s a lot to talk about when it comes to the political dimensions of what’s happening – gun control, mental health, school safety – but we’re here for a simple reason,” he said. “Just by establishing a presence of support here, miles away from where a tragedy occurred … [we make] a statement that we care enough even during finals to come out.”

Rabbi Sarna told the story of a man he met the night before in Newtown. The man had begun a memorial with a single flagpole near Sandy Hook Elementary School, and one by one people joined in with cards, candles, posters, stuffed animals and coffee.

“And such is the human spirit that healing happens, not all at once, but in small humble increments that we all participate in,” Sarna said.

After a moment of silence, students were invited to light 26 candles in honor of the victims as Imam Khalid Latif of NYU spoke of the power of the candle to continuously give light without losing any of it’s shine.

“Your giving has to be in the same ways that these candles give,” Latif said.

To close the ceremony, Luke Shearin, a Stern freshman and resident of Newtown, spoke to the gathering of NYU community members, thanking them for their support. He said that the tragedy created a sense of overwhelming community in his town.

“It’s always been a quiet town, your stereotypical Connecticut small town and that was always the way we liked it,” he said. “With the tragedy came an outpouring of support from across the nation. For that, thank you.”

Shearin said that the vigil was a way for people to give and for the tragedy to have a more lasting impact when so often people forget.

After the vigil, attendees were invited to write a message for the people of Newtown that a group of students would deliver to residents of Newtown later tonight.

The students driving to Newtown plan to talk to the families and show their support.

“It’s not just something that affected a small town in Connecticut,” said Steinhardt junior Danielle Wolkowicz who is going with them. “[The vigil] was an outlet for NYU students because not everyone can go there.”

The vigil was organized by the Center for Spiritual Life, the Bronfman Center, the Office of the Vice President, NYU Chaplains, Student Senators Council, CSALS, CMEP, LGBT, Islamic Center, the Catholic Center, Protestant ministries and fellowships, and the Kimmel Center.

For CAS senior Nichole Roxas, it was important to give 30 minutes of her time to reflect on the tragedy.

“It was so moving to see this whole placed filled with people who care,” Roxas said. “We all have that human connection and I’m just really touched. My heart is with them and it looks like so is everyone else’s here.”

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Tatiana Baez

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