ODU for Orlando: Monarch Nation’s Candlelight Vigil
Girish Sreevatsan Nandakumar
On June 13, over 100 students, faculty and alumni gathered in front of the Webb Center to honor the victims of the deadliest mass shooting in American history. On June 12, a gunman opened fire at a gay club in Orlando, Fla., taking 49 lives and injuring over 50 people. Dr. Ellen Neufeldt, ODU’s Vice President for Student Engagement and Enrollment Services, was present along with the new provost, Dr. Austin Agho. Joe Ritchie, the director of first year academic engagement, spoke to the gathering. After expressing his shock and sadness concerning the hate crime, he also expressed satisfaction at the way ODU treats the LGBT community.
Alejandra Diaz-Rangel, the Assistant Director for International Initiatives at ODU’s Office of Intercultural Relations, was also present. “I am proud of ODU. Tonight, we come together to honor the lives of the victims and support the LGBT community as a unified, diverse, and inclusive campus community,” she said. Petra Szonyegi, the new student representative to the board of visitors, expressed in her speech how proud she was to be a student at an inclusive university like ODU.
Connor Norton, a recent ODU alumnus, gave an inspiring speech reminding the gathering that the LGBT community knows how to stay strong no matter what stands against them. “Power is either given at the beginning of our lives or earned through the lives we live. I feel that no community has shown us the ability to earn this power more than the LGBT community,” he said. The president of the Muslim Student Association, Muhammad Rahman, strongly condemned the incident and iterated that the Prophet Muhammad and the Quran strongly oppose violence.
Many others students shared their feelings in front of the crowd. A student from Orlando remembered one of the victims, a classmate from high school who had stood next to her during graduation. Many others students, including Dominick Ramos, a member of the student senate, shared their thoughts and prayers. Other members of the Student Government Association, including the former president Christopher Ndiritu, current president Rachel Edmonds and Chief Justice Tagee Blackman were present.