A magnitude-7.9 earthquake hit central Nepal on Saturday, killing upwards of 4,000 people and cutting off many more from food and supplies. The NYU community held a vigil on Tuesday to pay respects and offer aid to those affected by the tragedy.
Around 50 people gathered on the steps of the Kimmel Center for University Life for the vigil. At the end of the event, attendees were given envelopes for cash donations and the names of various charity organizations for those interested in further contributions.
CAS freshman Shivani Shrestha, who was born in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu, shared the moving story of her experience after hearing about the earthquake. Shrestha said the damage in Nepal and the surrounding area was so extensive that it could take months, maybe even years, to rebuild, if at all.
“Over 4,000 people have been found dead, hundred of thousands more are left homeless and a lot of the oldest buildings have been reduced to nothing,” Shrestha said. “These are symbols of Nepal and these are gone.”
Shrestha said the the barrage of aftershocks forced her family to take refuge in an open field and the airport shutdown left her unable to be by their side. Shrestha added that it was difficult for the Nepalese community in the United States to wait for different media sources to post updates, as they had no other way to reach their relatives.
“Saturday morning was a frenzy,” Shrestha said. “Phone lines were down and no one could contact anyone in Nepal for the first few hours. Sunday morning we heard of the next big aftershock, and it just wasn’t fair. I couldn’t talk to my mom or family in Nepal without crying.”
Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, who also spoke at the vigil, said the public has a responsibility to be aware of the damage and to contribute what they can. Sarna added that it is important for people to look beyond the headlines and think about all the individuals affected.
“It’s important for us to care and not to be beaten back by the pain of cynicism that makes us think, ‘What does it make a difference if we give 10 dollars or five dollars?’” Sarna said. “In the face of that cynicism, we say, It does make a difference.”
Khalid Latif, Muslim chaplain at NYU, said when tragic events such as this one happen, people must join together and show their support.
“A natural disaster sometimes reveals to us how disastrous we treat each other as human beings,” Latif said. “It is pivotal for all of us gathered here to understand the role that we can play in the rebuilding process.”
In the midst of the anguish and devastation, there has been a growing discussion about the best way for people to lend a hand. LS freshman Maddie Davey said she recognizes monetary aid is crucially important, but she also believes that people need to remember the individuals they are helping and try to personalize their gestures of support.
“I think the best way to help in these situations is to not merely throw random donations at them, but to ask people there what they need specifically,” Davey said. “Assumptions can turn a well-meaning gesture into a donation that can’t even be utilized by the people on the ground.”
A version of this article appeared in the Wednesday, April 29 print edition. Email Christine Wang at [email protected]