Less than 24 hours after the attacks in Paris, University of Connecticut students gathered on Fairfield Way Saturday evening in solidarity with the 129 victims of the Nov. 13 attack on Paris, France and recent tragedies worldwide.
The vigil was a quiet affair, with roughly 25 students holding hands during a non-denominational prayer service, organized by the UConn chapter of Cru, a Christian fellowship, beginning at 4:30 p.m.
Surrounded by cameramen from local TV stations, students took turns saying prayers for Paris as well as those taken by the suicide bombings in Beirut, displaced by an earthquake in Japan and enveloped in racial tensions at the University of Missouri.
“We don’t know what the answer is,” said Eric Rardin, a Cru staff member who helped organize the vigil, to those gathered on Fairfield Way. “Please help our brothers and sisters in Christ.”
Shortly after, the vigil broke up into smaller groups for private prayer. Rardin said Cru’s hope was to bring students together in an interdenominational display of faith to show that they could unite to bring about change and make their voices heard.
“There are a lot of people having a hard time right now, it’s just very difficult for them,” Rardin said. “We’re here to make a difference.”
In a statement released Friday evening, President Barack Obama told Americans, “This is an attack not just on Paris, it’s an attack not just on the people of France, but this is an attack on all of humanity and the universal values that we share.”
Rardin said he believes gatherings like the Cru vigil embody President Barack Obama’s message about the universality of international tragedies.
Lauren O’Farrell, a first-semester French major who is planning to study abroad in Paris next year, attended the vigil with several members of the French Club.
“It’s really about showing support for everyone, especially our friend who is French,” O’Farrell said. “It’s really emotional.”
When it had become completely dark outside, the students reunited to sing “Amazing Grace” before the vigil dispersed. Some students left to take refuge from the blustering wind while others continued down Hillside Road to paint the rock across the street from North Garage.
When the students reached Alumni Drive, members of EOA (Frat can’t find name of, will check again today) had already painted the rock in honor of Paris, but it was agree that they could repaint the west-facing side with the colors of the French flag: red, white and blue.
Kes Federowicz, a fifth-semester French major, said she saw a concert in the area that was attack while studying abroad in Paris with many of the students who attended the rock painting and vigil.
“We used to live there for five months, it was home to us, it still is our home,” Federowicz said. “It was just crazy reading the list of places that were targeted.”
Several students who studied in Paris with Federowicz, including Jessa Sahl, a seventh-semester music major, shared memories of their time abroad.
“I just love how they have preserved their history, you walk around and there’s just ‘that’ building or ‘that’ painting,” said Sahl, who helped organize the rock painting.
Brianna Virgulto, a fifth-semester accounting major, said the relaxed lifestyle in Paris has stuck with her since returning from her time abroad.
“Everyone here is in a rush and it was just so leisurely there,” Virgulto said.
At the end of the evening, around 7:30 p.m., the group of short term expatriates lined the base of the rock with candles in honor of Paris, a country where they spent up to a year of their lives and which many of them still viewed as a second home.
Kimberly Armstrong is a staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.