Penn State Gathers to Honor Newtown Victims
By Ryan Beckler
Amid candlelight, the Penn State community gathered once again on the Old Main patio.
On Sunday night, hundreds of Penn State students and State College residents convened to honor the victims of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn.
Penn State a capella group Coda Conduct softly sung a rendition of Phillip Phillips’ song, “Home” to open the somber vigil. A group of students who call Newtown home expressed their thoughts and feelings about the terrible situation that has engulfed their town.
One student from Newtown asserted that when she heard the news, she just wanted to go home, but “then I thought about the 26 victims who can’t go home,” she said. Another Newtown native expressed how close-knit her community has become since Friday’s unthinkable massacre that left 27 dead, 20 children and seven adults, before the gunman, authorities have said, took his own life.
“This is our town. We are united,” she said.
After a student powerfully vocalized “Amazing Grace,” the event organizers read the names and ages of the victims. The tears in the crowd became more prevalent after each name was read. An extended moment of silence followed.
Ryan Brown, the Student Black Caucus President and one of the students who helped organize the event, addressed the crowd.
“This isn’t about our differences. This is about the things that make us the same. We all have one common hope,” he said.
Then, Kevin Gallagher, a Penn State student and cousin of Newtown victim, Benjamin Wheeler, stepped forward and shared his thoughts with the crowd. He was courageously composed. His voice was calm.
“The thing that I’ve heard most from people who’ve found out about my situation is that they don’t know what to say," he said. "Because there’s not much to say. There really isn’t. I can only imagine how much pain those families in Connecticut, especially my cousin’s, are feeling right now, knowing that they have to bury one of our youngest members on Thursday.”
Gallagher had some words of advice for the silent, stoic crowd.
“When you’re done here and you get home after your finals and you take care of whatever it is you have to take of, get home and just hug your family." he said. "Hug your family, tell them you love them, and make them know that you need them just as much as they need you.
“Because I, along with those several families in Connecticut, are going to find that out this week. Just how important family truly is to everybody."