KSU vigil honors VT students

Tim Magaw

More than two hundred students gatherd in Risman Plaza Friday to pay tribute to Virgina Tech students. KATIE ROUPE | DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: Jason Hall

When Daniel Kwasny was working in Virginia Tech’s admissions office two days after the shooting, someone called in a bomb threat. Although the threat turned out to be false, he said he just had to get out.

Kwasny, a Portage County native and fourth-year business information technology major at Virginia Tech, said he came to Kent State to stay with his brother because it was “getting rough down there.”

A woman clad in Virginia Tech apparel approached Kwasny during Friday’s vigil in Risman Plaza with tears in her eyes.

She said she was also a Hokie and expressed deep concern and condolences. She then offered Kwasny a hug.

“It’s real, but it’s still in the shock phase,” Kwasny said about last Monday’s shooting that left 33 dead.

Lines of mourning students, faculty and community members stretched across Risman Plaza as they waited to sign one of the banners or scrapbooks being sent to Virginia Tech. The vigil was organized by Undergraduate Student Senate, the Center for Student Involvement and Kent State’s administration.

President Lester Lefton addressed the university community during the vigil. As he spoke, a Virginia Tech banner hung in the background, waving in the wind.

Lefton said many people in the Kent State community know the “overwhelming shock, disbelief and grief” Virginia Tech is experiencing because of the community’s own experiences with the May 4, 1970 shootings.

“Although nothing will ever look or feel the same to those who were living, working and studying on the Virginia Tech campus four days ago – and nothing can bring back the precious and promise-filled lives that were lost – Kent State is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and its capacity to create great good from great pain,” Lefton said to the hundreds gathered in the plaza.

Katie Hale, executive director for USS, addressed the vigil’s attendees on behalf of the student body.

“I am in awe of the response of the Kent State students,” Hale said to the crowd, adding Kent State is a caring and concerned university.

The Rev. Lauren Odell-Scott, director of United Christian Ministries, also addressed the crowd and said people shouldn’t focus on how the victims died but how they lived.

“We feel so much died with them, and something in us died with them,” Odell-Scott said to crowd, adding that good will prevail.

Lefton, Hale and Odell-Scott gathered at the foot of the stage to light a large candle from which all of the others would be lit. Students huddled together lighting each other’s candles, shielding them the wind as gusts attempted to extinguish the flames.

Preston Mitchum, junior political science major and one of the vigil’s organizers, said he was in contact with Virginia Tech’s student body president, trying to see what Kent State could do to show support. Mitchum found out about the Hoakie Spirit Memorial Fund, which was set up to assist victims and their families.

Mitchum said it was great to see so many people out supporting the victims and their families.

“I could not imagine going through something like that,” Mitchum said about the tragedy. “I would be having a panic. I would not what to do.”

Jasmine Baker, junior integrated health studies major, said she came to the vigil to show her respects, adding the tragedy could have happened on this campus.

“It good to see us all come together to be united and be as one in remembrance of the Virginia Tech students,” Baker said.

Mike Yuan, a computer science graduate student, said it was nice to see such a crowd show up for the vigil.

“I feel that all people on campus care for the tragedy at Virginia Tech,” he said. “We’re all very sad for the event.”

Anthony Bonanno, a senior from Newbury High School in Geauga County, said he wanted show support for the victims anyway he could.

“It’s really touching – even as far as Ohio (people are showing support),” Bonanno said about the vigil. “We’re still reaching out to support Virginia.”

Contact administration reporter Tim Magaw at [email protected].