Memorial service held for victims of Virginia Tech shooting

Above: Heads are bowed as a bell rings once for each of the 32 Virginia
Tech victims killed in the April 16 massacre

In a solemn ceremony last Thursday, many in the York community gathered for a memorial service in Vari Hall to remember the 32 victims of the April 16 shooting at Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University.

It was a rainy day during exam time, but a large number of students, staff and faculty attended to pay their respects.

Hosted by York’s Interfaith Council, the service featured words from representatives from different faiths, and student and community leaders.

Zac Kaye, executive director of Hillel of Greater Toronto, Fr. Roger Vandenakker, a Roman Catholic priest, and Shiao Chong, a chaplain with the Christian Reformed Church, offered words of wisdom and condolence.

"We cry out, out of that place where we feel helpless, alone and powerless, where we suffer from our inability to stop rampage of death in our world," said Chong. "We cry out and say ‘Why Lord, must any child of yours be hurt? Why must any of us suffer pain or sorrow?’" In a world where such pain is inevitable, he urged people to open their eyes to the sorrow of those around them embrace each other in solidarity and community, especially in tragic times.

Haseeb Kamal, president of York’s Muslim Student Association, presented a student’s perspective. He said he was very affected by the incident as he realized the great potential each student victim possessed. The students would not only be remembered for what they were but for what they could have become, said Kamal. "Why do we always have to wait for eulogies to share how great people could be? Why is it that not until someone is six feet under do we realize the greatness that lay within them?"

The issue of campus safety at York University was also addressed. Hamid Osman of the York Federation of Students spoke of the organization’s commitment to helping keep York safe. "Although tragedy at Virginia Tech took place far from here, the issue of safety is very dear to York students," he said. "In the upcoming year, YFS plans to prioritize safety on this campus."

The victims’ names were read and those attending the memorial bowed their heads. A moment of silence followed, as a bell tolled 32 times, once for each of the 27 students and five faculty members who were killed by the lone shooter April 16.

Undergraduate student Alison Pereira said, "As students, we’re usually very self-involved. I came to the memorial to help me focus more on others and just remember the victims." 

"What the memorial does is let is us share in being part of the university community that exists not only here in Canada but beyond our borders," said Frank Cappadocia, York’s director of student community & leadership development. "We’re connecting to that community and saying ‘we’re all part of what happened at Virginia Tech’."

Story and photo by Bethany Hansraj, a student assistant in York’s Marketing & Communications Division.