Lehigh Students Come Together for Candlelight Vigil

By Katie Howlin '16

On Tuesday night, the Lehigh University community came together in remembrance of those who recently passed away as a result of terrorist attacks throughout the world. The vigil began by attendees lighting candles, followed by speeches from campus leaders and clergy, an open floor for students to voice their opinions, and finally a silent walk around campus. After reconvening from the walk, Global Union president, Danielle Hanes ‘16, asked all attendees to blow out their candles at once to “go dark” for the victims of the attacks. The action of “going dark” is one that has been repeated throughout the world, with monuments such as the Empire State Building and Big Ben turning out their lights in order to pay respects to the deceased. The event had a great turn out, with many Lehigh students and faculty in attendance, as Michael Smallwood, a freshman engineering student noted, “It’s nice to see so many people gathered to support this.”

Lehigh students at a candlelight vigil for the victims of attacks in France and LebanonWhile it was a somber event, many of those who spoke discussed the importance of maintaining hope even in these times. Attendee Anna Malisova '18, a computer science and business major, said that the event was very meaningful and the hopefulness of the speakers resonated with her, adding, “I thought that the event was very meaningful and some of the statements made by people who came up to speak about hope were so inspiring. There were times, even when people weren’t directly speaking about hope, that you could feel it in what they expressed and it was beautiful. The vigil was both devastating and inspiring.”

While hope was a common theme addressed by most speakers, solidarity was also something that many speakers incorporated into their addresses. For Chet Bickhart, a sophomore mechanical engineering student, the most lasting impression of the evening was the show of solidarity between two students who sang “La Marseillaise,” the French national anthem. He said, “I thought it was touching and symbolic when the French guy and president of the Muslim club at Lehigh sang together.” Junior biology major Grace Wong thought that “the open mic forum was a great idea because it allowed Lehigh students and faculty to share their thoughts. I was especially touched by the student who sang the French national anthem in front of the entire crowd. It was not only a way for him to share his love of his home, but also a message of perseverance. The anthem was a way of saying 'keep going' and that he, along with the rest of the Lehigh community was standing with the countries that were attacked.”

Bickhart also noted, “I thought it was really great to get together not just for Paris but for all the countries around the world.” Sophomore computer engineering and math double major Zach Hille echoed Bickhart’s sentiments about solidarity, noting that “it was a very heartwarming event, being able to see people from all different backgrounds and degrees of relation to incidents, from not having any personal connection, to those who knew victims, come together and show support for such a tragic event.”

Wong added, “The group of students and faculty who attended this event revealed that this university can truly stand together in times of crisis and need. The Lehigh community stands with France, Beirut, and any other country that has been affected by the terrorist attacks and will continue to stand with them.” Senior global studies major and Global Union president, Danielle Hanes, who was a co-organizer of the vigil, echoed Wong’s sentiments. Hanes said, “It is easy to take a Lehigh education for granted, to become so engrossed in our social life and academics that we completely lose touch with what is happening outside of our bubble. Tonight shifted that mentality, and I am incredibly grateful to everyone that came out.”

The vigil’s attendance gives Hanes hope that important events such as these will continue to be recognized by the university and its students, saying, “After tonight, I hope the dialogue continues.”