WVU held a candlelight vigil to celebrate and mourn the lives lost in the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh.
I arrived at the event alone, but the feeling I left with was anything but. The crowd was a collection of Jewish community members, students and staff of all faiths. Some had closer ties to the tragedy than others; some, like me, had no ties at all. By the end of the night, though, it was clear that everyone was there for the same reason: no one wanted to feel alone.
The fatal shooting that occurred Saturday, October 27 was the largest attack on Jewish people in American history. The 11 people died during worship, a time when they should have felt their most peaceful and secure. The Jewish community of Squirrel Hill, along with communities across the nation, have lost their sense of safety. However, it was evident that these people are already eager to regain that safety again.
The main theme of the evening was exactly that. A local rabbi spoke of how fear can deter people from their faith. By running away, though, the villain is getting exactly what they want. Rather, times like these are when folks should be their most resilient.
This statement stays true no matter the target—groups of all faiths, races, genders and orientations. Likewise, the vigil was a moving example that when one group is under attack, everyone —affiliated with that group or not— should feel comfortable to assist and support.
Eventually, I found myself crying in the presence of such compassion and strength.
At a time when citizens feel unsafe and divided, bonding moments between communities are crucial.