'Seek change together': Students, community members mourn victims of UVA, U. of Idaho tragedies at vigil

Community members gathered for a vigil Thursday night at the Goodson Chapel to honor the four students at the University of Idaho and three at the University of Virginia who died in separate tragedies on Nov. 13. 

The vigil, organized by Duke Student Government, was one of their requests of Duke administrators in a November resolution calling for a university-wide response to the tragedies. 

Duke administrators told DSG they “didn’t have the bandwidth to host a vigil,” but encouraged DSG to organize the event, according to junior Shreya Joshi, vice president of Campus Life. 

"Staff from Religious Life helped organize and support the event. We did support the vigil and did offer to help or host a vigil as well," wrote Shruti Desai, associate vice president of student affairs for campus life, in an email to The Chronicle. 

Duke Divinity School and interfaith chaplains also helped organize the event, according to Joshi. DSG was in conversations with UVA and U. of Idaho student governments and on-campus student groups also contributed to publicizing efforts.  

Laura Lieber, professor of religious studies, gave opening remarks to an audience of students and community members. She described the victims as "seven worlds of goodness, kindness, energy and promise that were destroyed."  

"Judaism offers little certainty about things we cannot know, including what happens after we die. I cannot offer any consolation on those grounds. But Judaism does provide clarity to the living on the value of life,” she said.

Lieber noted how the night’s vigil highlighted the failures of society, and urged members to feel “empowered to work to repair the world in the [victims’] names and memories.” 

“We cannot repair the world by ourselves alone, on our own. We are here together, we are not alone and we cannot not try,” she said.  

DSG senator and sophomore Katie Kotler listed the names of the seven victims of the tragedies as attendees lit candles and held a moment of silence. At the front of the chapel, a poster board displayed the names of the victims. 

DSG Chief of Staff and senior Hana Hendi read an excerpt from “One Pulse — One Poem” by Richard Blanco. 

“Let’s place each memory like a star, the light of their past reaching us now, and always, reminding us to keep writing until we never need to write a poem like this again,” Hendi recited.

After the poem, seven attendees engaged in a rose-bearing procession, laying roses at the altar of the chapel to honor the victims. 

As the floor opened to audience remarks, first-year Ava Liebmann read an original piece, originally written to honor the lives lost in the Uvalde, Texas school shooting. 

“So now when I hold hands and cross the street, thinking of 14 hands, 14 hands that never got the chance,” Liebmann said. 

The vigil ended with words from Rev. Kathryn Lester-Bacon, director of religious life at Duke University Chapel.

“Pause in silence and stillness and reflection — it's worth it to share our emotions and our memories,” Lester-Bacon said. “It is worth it to lament, even if you don't know what to do with that lament. It is worth it to do something together because it's worth it to seek change together … we can be a community, and we can be in this world together.”

Ishani Raha profile
Ishani Raha | Senior Editor

Ishani Raha is a Pratt junior and a senior editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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