As people made their way through the winding backstreets of the Financial District to the Foley Square vigils, they could see attendees on their way out, doubled over in tears and clutching their heads in their hands.
The vigil was held in honor of the victims who lost their lives in the TriBeCa attacks on Oct. 31. Twenty-six different faith-based communities in the city co-sponsored the event — including the Islamic Center at NYU — and approximately 200 people attended.
The description on the Facebook event said that the United States is always strongest when Americans stand up for their ideals and rally together.
“There have been times we as a country have not always lived up to our ideals, but when we do, we succeed,” the event description said.
Jonathan Soto, senior community liaison in the Community Affairs Unit of City Hall, said that the event had two aspects: mourning the victims of the attack and voicing support for the families in mourning. He also said the vigil intended to support the Muslim community, who Soto said may be put at risk because of the nature of the attack.
“Tonight is a showing of mourning for the lives that were lost but also of strength for those that we know will need our support and vigilance in the days to come,” Soto said. “Families are mourning, but we know that Muslims are going to be targeted also, and we want to make sure that they know we have their back.”
Soto also said it was important to organize in an interfaith context in order to support one another.
“We believe in organizing in an interfaith context because a Muslim’s rights are as important as a Christian’s rights, a Buddhist’s rights or a non-believer’s rights — so in order to add fidelity to the First Amendment, we must organize in an interfaith context,” Soto said.
Raymond Blanchette, chairman of the Clergy Campaign for Social and Economic Justice and senior fellow at the Micah Institute at the National Futures Association of New York, said the attacker called out to “Allahu Akbar,” but the attacker was not Muslim.
“[The attacker’s] actions were un-Islamic,” Blanchette said. “All over the world, you have a number of individuals trying to hijack a religion and take away a wonderful faith from the people who practice it, and as a result of that, you have bigots running around and saying Muslims do not belong among us.”
Blanchette also said it was his duty as a preacher to protect the Muslim community and mourn the deaths of the victims.
“We need to speak up as loudly as possible and stand up for the Muslim community — and we stand on behalf of the victims that we mourn,” Blanchette said. “We really have to come together and see each other as human beings and respect our common humanity.”
Second-year GLS student Stephanie Sugars said this night was about solidarity with the Muslim community and the families of the victims.
“To show that we can’t be divided in the face of that is extremely important,” Sugars said. “I’ve seen people hugging and building a community, so [the vigil is] helpful.”
Soto said that in times of crisis in New York, it is important to heal as a unified, city-wide community.
“We want to make it known loud and clear that hate has no home in New York City,” Soto said. When we see fear, the faith leaders step up immediately and are able to ensure that all people feel welcome in this city.”
Email Miranda Levingston at [email protected].