About 300 students and faculty gathered under MU’s Memorial Union archway for a candlelight vigil Tuesday night in honor of those who died in Monday’s shootings at Virginia Tech.
In a brief speech, Chancellor Brady Deaton commended the “beautiful, wonderful crowd” and asked everyone to link arms and bow heads as a symbol of the depth of MU’s sympathy for the Virginia Tech victims. Deaton worked at Virginia Tech for 11 years, and many beneath the archway said they felt similarly affected by Monday’s tragedy.
“It hit close to home because it was at a college campus,” said Rachel Anderson, president of the Missouri Students Association. “You can just envision a residence hall or an engineering building here.”
Anderson received a few e-mails Monday afternoon asking if the university had any services planned. By that evening, she and the other MSA executives had organized Tuesday’s 9:30 p.m. vigil as an “outlet for students to cope with” what happened in Virginia.
“When you look at the make-up of the (Virginia Tech) campus, it reminds you of MU,” said Farouk Aregbe, coordinator of student government services. “They’re 26,000, we’re 23,000; They have about 100 buildings on campus, we have about the same. A lot of their students live in residence halls like ours. It makes you think, it could be us.”
For some students, the similarities between the two universities added to the shock but also seemed to emphasize the need to offer support. “Even though we don’t know them, I think it’s important they know that we support them and are praying for them,” said freshman Stephanie Frey, a nursing major. “This happened to college students just like us.”
Chancellor Deaton also acknowledged the similarities between the two campuses and made a point to stress the precautions MU had in place to ensure student safety, including residence hall lock-downs and MU Police Department e-mails.
Participants at the vigil were encouraged to sign a banner that read “We are all Hokies,” after Virginia Tech’s mascott. The banner will be on display for more to sign at Brady Commons this week and will later be sent to Virginia Tech.
At the end of the ceremony, Memorial Union’s bell rang 33 times for those who died in the shootings. Sophomore Ally Ryder, an architecture student at MU from Virginia, was crying. When she found out about Monday’s events, “I was at the bank making a deposit and I stopped and stared for like, 25 minutes,” Ryder said. “I was completely appalled. I instantly got in the car and called my mom.”
“It really brings you back, makes you think of where you were in those moments,” Ryder said. “Where you were (on the day of) Columbine, where you were (on) 9-11.”