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On-Campus Vigil Brings Tears, Songs and Hope for Change

by Haley Wells

On a cold Tuesday night, students, faculty and Montclair State University employees shivered and gathered together for a vigil. Everyone formed a vast circle of about 50 people in front of the Student Center and united to commemorate lives lost in recent tragedies in the news.


About 50 students gather in a circle in front of the Student Center to hold a vigil.
Olivia Kearns | The Montclarion

Tragedies have been scattered across the latest headlines, most prominently, Saturday’s shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which resulted in 11 deaths and multiple injuries. Just last week, two African-Americans in a Kentucky grocery store parking lot were shot and killed, and over a dozen packaged explosives were sent to political officials including former presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Undeclared freshman Corinne Podolski believes that highlighting these tragedies brought the campus together.

Undeclared freshman Corinne Podolski (right) gets emotional during the vigil.
Olivia Kearns | The Montclarion

“I think it’s important to bring attention to these events happening and to bring everyone together,” Podolski said. “Bring love together versus hate and anger.”

Rev. Jim Chern, director and chaplain of Newman Catholic Center, attended the event along with students from other religions and backgrounds.

Rev. Jim Chern, the director and chaplain at Newman Catholic Center, attends the vigil to support the community.
Olivia Kearns | The Montclarion


All students were encouraged to attend the vigil and unite together in song.
Olivia Kearns | The Montclarion

Different speakers led the vigil, urging people to vote in the aftermath of these tragedies. People handed out tissues for those that were weeping and LED tea lights for those who wanted to display them in their windows at home.

Patrolwoman Amanda Rusticus of the University Police Department thinks unifying on campus is a good way to show support for the community.

Patrolwoman Amanda Rusticus (second in from the right), of the University Police Department, attends the vigil to stand with the Montclair State campus community.
Olivia Kearns | The Montclarion

“I believe it’s important to come together in this moment to allow our community to see that we are here for each other and everyone,” Rusticus said. “We need to provide support and make sure we start making positive changes by working together. We are here to keep all the families in our prayers.”

Assistant Director of Residence Life, Hamal Strayhorn, gives a speech at the vigil about light driving out darkness.
Olivia Kearns | The Montclarion

Assistant Director of Residence Life Hamal Strayhorn gave a speech about “the light” being the force of change for allies — something he said people should seek.

“I think it’s important for all of us to realize that we are part of humanity and that we’re all interconnected,” Strayhorn said.

Cantor Meredith Greenberg sang songs and played slow melodies on her guitar to fit the tone of the vigil. The crowd sang along with her and learned the meaning behind her songs.

Cantor Meredith Greenberg leads the crowd in song at the vigil to commemorate lives lost.
Olivia Kearns | The Montclarion

Cantor Meredith Greenberg hands out papers with song lyrics so attendees can sing along with her music.
Olivia Kearns | The Montclarion

Papers with the names of people who died in the Pittsburgh shooting were distributed. Volunteers went around in a circle to read off each name while providing a moment of silence for each victim announced.

An open forum also occurred, enabling students to share their thoughts if they wanted to.

“Hate cannot drive out darkness,” Strayhorn said during his speech. “Only light can do that.”

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