Students Attend Candlelight Gathering in Response to Natural Disasters

By Jake Gongora, Contributing Writer

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Closing
The gathering was closed out by a short song and a message of peace.                 Jake Gongora | The Montclarion

Students and faculty came together for a candlelight gathering in honor of those recently affected by natural disasters on the evening of Thursday, Sept. 28 in the student center quad. The event was put together last minute by Keith Johnson, the International Project and Recruit Coordinator for the Office of International Engagement (IE).

“On behalf of the entire university, I want to say how sorry we are for all that has happened to so many of our friends and relatives and fellow human beings around the world in the past few days,” said Dr. Karen Pennington, Vice President for Student Development and Campus Life.

A group of students stand together holding their candles at the candlelight gathering.” Taylor Risley | The Montclarion

Pennington informed the crowd that Montclair State will be reaching out to universities and students in the affected areas to see what ways they can be of assistance. She said the university hopes to provide those students the chance to finish their education at Montclair State.

“When you look at the pictures it’s just mind-blowing,” said Pennington, “We know that it affects you as students and it affects our fellow staff and faculty as well. In my own office, two of our staff members who have family in Puerto Rico have not heard from their mothers, sisters and brothers.”

Associate Provost of International Engagement Jane Ann Williams spoke to students before having a moment of silence for those affected by the natural disasters. Taylor Risley | The Montclarion

Dr. Pennington and Jane Ann Williams, the Associate Provost of IE, led everyone in a moment of silence.

“This is Red Hawks community correct?” said Johnson, who joined the university two months ago. “So me being a new Red Hawk, we have to take it upon ourselves to create an environment where our university is helping out the best way we can and that starts within house.”

Johnson spoke to the impact that these events could have on international students. Montclair State houses around 560 international students from 85 countries.

Project Recruitment Coordinator Keith Johnson wants everyone to understand that life is very fragile. Taylor Risley | The Montclarion

You never know who is affected and we just wanted to have this opportunity to let people know that they are in our thoughts,” said Johnson.

Williams was in Mexico at the time of the earthquake.

“Beyond the physical damage I saw, the human suffering was immense,” said Williams. “In person, seeing people who are trying to do their work and just crying uncontrollably, seeing people who had no ability to contact their friends.”

She explained how the Montclair State community was able to come together for this event and show support for the tragedy abroad.

“This event really was inspired knowing what a caring culture we do have on this campus and the ability for those of us who are in a comfortable situation to help someone who is not,” said Williams.

Williams urged those in attendance to reach out to people affected, not just in Florida and Texas, but to the people in the Caribbean, Puerto Rico and Mexico.

Freshman applied linguistics major, Luis De Jesus, is from the Dominican Republic and had his arrival at Montclair State delayed because of Hurricane Irma. He was able to fly here before Hurricane Maria struck the island days later. He spent two days without electricity before he was able to leave.

Speech
Luis Frank de Jesus Castillio, speaks to students and staff about his experience in the Dominican Republic.                                                                                                                                  Jake Gongora | The Montclarion

De Jesus says his family in the Dominican Republic is doing okay and things are starting to return to normal, but he has not heard from his uncle or cousin in Puerto Rico.

Josue Michel, who has family in Haiti, hasn’t heard from them since before the hurricanes hit.

“They aren’t doing well, said Michel. “They never fully healed from the earthquake years ago. Families have called asking for money.”

For those looking for a place or a way to help, Johnson says to go to the Student Government Association.

“Seeing individuals that are hurting or losing their livelihood is something we as a community can address [if] many hands make light work,” said Williams.

IE is looking to plan another event for the previous natural disasters for next week.

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