It was just a fleeting thought on Shiv Sethi’s mind at 12 a.m. last Tuesday.But approximately 21 hours later, Sethi and his Alpha Kappa Lamba fraternity brothers organized an hour-long vigil for the 32 Virginia Tech students and faculty who were killed last Monday.
“I was watching CNN and they were talking about how students at colleges across the country were holding vigils,” the sophomore finance major and the fraternity’s academic chairman said. “So I checked the Temple Web site to see if the university had anything planned.”
President Dr. Ann Weaver Hart released a statement April 17 following the shootings. So Sethi promptly formed the event and sent out mass invitations through Facebook.
Alpha Kappa Lamda President Dusha Holmes and Vice President Nicholas Bardoutsos reserved space at the Bell Tower and requested sound equipment. They also asked that the university send out a mass e-mail advertising the event.
Fraternity brother Josh Borowski, a junior criminal justice and political science double major, sent e-mails to local TV stations.
By 9 p.m. last Tuesday, about 100 members of Greek organizations and other students huddled around the Bell Tower, bracing the wind and the unseasonable April chill to share their thoughts about the shooting.
“Tonight I talk about a plague of our generation: school shootings,” said Holmes, a sophomore strategic and organizational communication major, at the vigil. “I don’t like the fact that our generation thinks [that] when there is nowhere to turn, violence is the answer. It is our generation’s problem and it is up to us to remedy this problem.”
About 15 students read poems, shared personal stories and offered words of encouragement. Several students voiced their concerns about the senseless and unpredictable nature of such a tragedy.
“It really could happen anywhere,” said Aaron Phillip Scott, a junior kinesiology
major, after reciting a prayer for the victims’ family and friends. “I generally feel safe on campus, but it is important for us to take responsibility and be aware of our surroundings,” he added.
Director of Campus Safety Services Carl Bittenbender said the department and the university was carefully reviewing the Virginia Tech situation, but noted the differences between the rural Blacksburg, Va., campus and Temple’s urban setting.
” . . .[students] need to know every day and every minute of every day, we are thinking about their safety,” Bittenbender said.
Juan Galeano, Temple Student Government’s student body president-elect, advised students to reach out to classmates that “don’t have too many friends.”
“Keep your eyes open for little signs to look out for,” Galeano said.Current TSG President Raysean Hogan said TSG will collect cards and donations until April 30.
The donation will go toward The Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund, which will be sent directly to Virginia Tech.
Bardoutsos said Alpha Kappa Lambda will raise money for the victims’ families at the Spring Fling outdoor festival Tuesday. He urged other student organizations to do the same.
But as students mourned together beneath a flapping Temple flag at the foot of the Bell Tower, they took solace in the sense of community on campus.
“I feel so connected here even though it’s such a big school,” said Alexis Carvajal, a sophomore in the College of Liberal Arts.
“People here are willing to come together.”
Sethi commended students who attended the vigil. “This is a Temple event,” he said in a closing statement, “and you don’t know how much it means to me that you all came out here tonight.”
Nick Pipitone can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org