Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass community holds vigil in support of Boston

By Chelsie Field

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The flames of candles flickered out long before a couple hundred people, mostly University of Massachusetts students, were done honoring those affected by Monday’s Boston Marathon bombings in a Tuesday night gathering at Haigis Mall.

Organized via Facebook by a handful of Greeno Sub Shop co-managers the night before, the event began at 10 p.m., lasting for a little more than an hour. It began with a brief moment of silence for those affected by the two explosions that rocked the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three and injuring nearly 200.

In an email to the UMass community Tuesday morning, Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy confirmed that no one from the UMass community had been reported dead or injured from the bombings.

“We felt really bad about what happened and we wanted to do something about it and we just had this crazy idea,” co-organizer Daveth Cheth said after the event. “I was really nervous coming in today, but I feel like people were so encouraging and so respectful. It was a very nice atmosphere, very comfortable.

Originally billed as a candlelight vigil, the wind and slight drizzle proved too overbearing for sustainable flames; students were instead encouraged to hold up their cell phones in tribute. The night also featured student speakers as well as sing-alongs.

About 15 students, most using a bullhorn, addressed the tightly packed crowd from the steps of the Fine Arts Center to share their thoughts and stories about the recent terror in Boston.

Sanah Rizvi, a freshman psychology major, spoke at gathering and called attendees “the spark” for positive change simply for attending. Rizvi, who is an international student from India, has relatives in Boston, all safe and accounted for, who canceled going to the marathon last minute.

“It’s very difficult to have faith or believe, but the fact that people came out on a working day and left their homework or work … shows that humanity has still a chance, that we still have a chance of a better future, because we are the future, you know?” Rizvi said in an interview.

Another speaker, senior psychology student Deserea Turner, told the story of how her cousin, who works close by the location of the finish line explosions, ran out of his workplace to help the wounded.

“At the time he didn’t’ know what was going on, but he felt he had to go help … he felt that it was his duty to help,” said Turner. Turner said that though she was not in Boston to tangibly help, speaking at the gathering and sharing her story was her contribution to honoring those affected by the bombings. At the end of her speech, Turner asked the crowd to participate in another moment of silence for all those affected by bombings.

The event concluded with a crowd sing-along of “Lean on Me,” with attendees dispersing shortly thereafter around 11:15 p.m.

Freshman linguistics and theatre double major Griffin Lyons attended the gathering to show his support for Boston, and said he was “staggered by the good will pouring in from all corners of the world.”

“UMass Amherst is a part of that,” Lyons, who has family in Boston, added.

The event faced immediate backlash on its Facebook event page following its conclusion, however, as some students criticized that the content of the gathering had too large a political tone for being only a day after the bombings, referring to a handful of speakers who chose to speak on topics such as the politics of violence as well as violence experienced daily throughout other parts of the world.

“Tonight’s vigil for Boston was … disappointing, to say the least,” wrote communication and journalism student Lauren Duffy. “While a couple (speakers) had valid and uplifting things to say, others turned it into a political rally.”

Duffy added, “There’s a time and a place for that, and tonight was neither.”

“I came to the vigil tonight in hopes that I could stand with other people and mourn. Not only to mourn the victims and their families, but also mourn for my city,” wrote Angie Delaney, an undeclared student originally from Boston. “I just wanted to say how disappointed and disrespected I felt tonight by how far the event strayed from its true purpose.”

Upcoming events at UMass aimed at aiding those affected by the bombings include “Boxes for Boston,” a plan still in the works to assemble packages containing items to lift the spirits of those in need in Boston.  For more information, go to facebook.com/events/239769789494738/?ref=3.

Additionally, there will be a UMass Amherst Community Run on Thursday at 6:30 starting at the Mullins Center. For more information, go to facebook.com/events/104759143058905/.

Chelsie Field can be reached at [email protected]

 

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