Vigil for Florida shooting victims held at GVSU

Sarah Hurwitz and 24 Hour News 8 web staff -

ALLENDALE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) -- Dozens of Grand Valley State University students and faculty members lit candles in honor of those killed in a mass shooting at a Florida high school.

"It can actually happen, so it is a scary thought," student Angel Harris said.

The Wednesday vigil at the clock tower on GVSU's Allendale campus marked one week since the shooting in Parkland that left 17 people dead.

"I think we're all finally realizing that words do nothing," organizer Brian Bialowas told 24 Hour News 8 before the vigil. "It's really important that when these tragedies happen, we act up, and not only to further our own agendas or the agendas that we believe are right, but supporting one other and realizing that we really are one community and just one people."

Vigil attendees held a moment of silence and prayed for the victims. As a woman sang "Imagine" by John Lennon, the group reflected on the Parkland shooting and how to move forward as a nation.

"We are prepared to deal with this. Even though it's the most difficult thing to have an assault on humanity, we know what to do," Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Maria Cimitile said.

She also stressed that the university's priority is safety for all of its students.

Earlier Wednesday, thousands of demonstrators held a rally at the state capitol in Florida, demanding stricter guns laws, including a ban on assault rifles, and increased investment in mental health care.

The question of how to prevent mass shootings has been under intense debate across the country.

"There's so many different components to this, whether it be the weapons used or the mental status of the people doing it," GVSU student Annette Williams told 24 Hour News 8. "But just getting rid of the stigma: If you're not OK, it's OK to not be OK and to seek out help and to not feel like you have nowhere to go, 'cause it's that desperation that can really lead to tragedies."

"Got to stricten our gun laws, definitely," Angel Harris said. "There should be absolutely no reason why we can't and why we're going through so much debating to get this done."

Many at the vigil stressed the important of unity and solidarity with the victims of the shooting and their families.

"If everyone can come together and show their support and just raise their voices that as a collective whole we can move towards that change that needs to happen," student Kaitlyn Kowalkowski said.

"These people are suffering greater things than we can even imagine, so it's important that we take the time to show our support for them," Brian Bialowas said.

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