University of Louisiana at Lafayette students stood in solidarity with Parkland, Florida last Thursday at a candlelight vigil in honor of the victims of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
The vigil was arranged by SGA to remember the 17 students and teachers killed on February 14 by 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, along with those still being affected, and to show a proactive stance on gun violence by the university.
“Tonight, we remember the 17 students who lost their lives in Florida, but there’s more than 17 who are suffering too,”said Yousef Ahmad, an engineering senator in SGA. “Students recovering, mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.”
“For so many students in America, school is a safe-haven. It’s often the only place where parents aren’t fighting, the only hot meal of that day is served or encouragement and affirmation is given regularly,” said SGA President Mary McMahon. “Students who step onto the campuses of public education institutions should be able to focus on receiving their education without having to worry about their safety.”
Ahmad said student involvement in school safety and gun control is what inspired his idea for the vigil.
“It directly affects us,” said Ahmad. “We need to know that we’re going to take part in this movement in trying to make sure academic institutions are safe across the board so we can come to school, learn, do what we need to do and go home without being afraid of anything happening to us.”
“We don’t have to be next door to be concerned, or feel the pain that that community is going through,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Patricia Cottonham. “Schools are meant to be safe spaces.”
Candle flames flickered in the breeze as the Rev. Rene Pellessier and Ahmed Bekhet read from the Bible and the Quran and heads hung during a moment of silence for the young victims.
“We want to make sure that the victims are remembered for who they are,” said Ahmad.
A movement for proactive gun control called “Never Again” was started by the classmates of both the victims and killer of the with calls for school safety becoming the forefront of national conversation. The National School Walkout on March 14, which all 42 Lafayette Parish School System schools are participating in and the international March for Our Lives on March 24 are the result of the efforts made by the classmates of both the victims and killer.