Penn State

PSU students organize vigil against violence

Thomas Snyder stands among Penn State students and community members for a peace vigil outside of Old Main on Tuesday, March 29, 2016.
Thomas Snyder stands among Penn State students and community members for a peace vigil outside of Old Main on Tuesday, March 29, 2016.

A moment of silence, please.

At 8 p.m. Tuesday, in front of Old Main, Penn State lit a candle in the darkness to oppose terror, brutality and bloodshed around the world.

It was called the Vigil Against Global Violence, and two students made it happen.

“The day the attacks happened in Brussels, I woke up to the news in a panic because I have family and friends in Belgium,” said Hope Schmid.

“I was so shocked and reached out to Ben Wideman, the pastor for the 3rd Way Collective organization, telling him how distressed and sad I was,” she said. “He suggested talking to Brandon (Sullivan) and he connected us immediately. Brandon was all for doing another vigil.”

It was not Sullivan’s first moment in the candlelight. He had already stepped up to organize another event in the wake of tragedy. He pulled together the vigil after the Paris attacks in November.

“No matter what these terrorists might do, when we’re standing together like this we are winning the war,” Sullivan said to those gathered at the Old Main steps. “Terrorism’s goal is to divide and conquer, to put fear in the hearts of people. ... The only way to fight terrorism is to stand together and hope for peace.”

The university has not suffered any direct losses from the terror attacks in Europe, the Middle East and Asia in recent years. There were students studying in Belgium but Penn State confirmed they were all safe. The same was true in France last year.

But that has not stopped the students from being moved to action and empathy.

“We want to come together in solidarity for all those mourning, from Turkey to Belgium to Pakistan,” said Schmid. “And to wherever else in the world.”

Students Ariel Stein, Thomas Snyder and Caroline Senko said they attended to support the victims of terror and let them know “they are not alone.”

“I think other countries have been so supportive of us, especially during 9/11, and I think we should show that same kind of support for them in times of need,” Stein said.

While meant as a sign of support for those in need around the world, the vigil was also a support system for those in attendance.

Student Kaila Hanlin said she turns to her community in times of conflict. The vigil gave her a place to process her emotions.

“It gives me that community where I can share my grief, my anger and my hope for the future,” she said.

Ozgul Calicioglu, a graduate student from Ankara, said when she heard of the attacks in her hometown, she thought, “It could have been me.”

She and other students from the Penn State Turkish Student Association came to offer their condolences and understanding.

Galip Cagan said he hopes people stay aware of what’s happening in the world.

“If we don’t use these tragedies to make things better, then people’s lives were lost in vain,” he said.