The bells rang upwards of two dozen times. The pause in between was just long enough to ask whether it was going to be the last, but then the silence would be cut once again by another mournful chime.
The University Ministry held a vigil for Las Vegas last Thursday, Oct. 5, with help from attendees who read a couple of selected prayers. All around, students and faculty stood on the steps outside Toler Hall, smelled the incense, watched its smoke and listened to the bells of St. Ignatius. Despite the coming and going of residents, it was a peaceful moment honoring the lives lost by the country and community in recent weeks.
“Peace within us, peace before us, peace under our feet,” was the mantra sung intermittently by the student chanter, Shelley Aquino.
Junior and Las Vegas native Chelsea Mathews was one of the volunteers who participated in the ceremony. She read a poem by Desmond Tutu and wrote this week’s op-ed, “Vegas Strong.”
“It’s been really hard being away from home,” Mathews said, “You never think it’s going to be your city, or your town, that’s going to be the next headline. And it’s crazy to be at the top of the list, in terms of U.S mass shootings.” Mathews had friends and family at the concert, though no one close to her was hurt.
Another Las Vegas native present at the vigil was Monica Doblado, the program assistant for the Theology and Religious Studies department. “I was in shock, I was horrified, I felt helpless,” Monica Doblado said of the tragedy in Vegas. She also volunteered to read a prayer, as she “thought that this would be a good healing mechanism.”
On the night of the shooting, Doblado was checking her Facebook before bed when she saw that a friend had posted a status that there was an active shooter. “I just watched it unfold very rapidly, but also […] very slowly, to the point where I just had to give up that night and wait till the morning to receive more detail,” she said.
“I called my mom and my family members that do live in Las Vegas still,” Doblado said. “I was at peace knowing that they weren’t at that festival… but it goes through my mind a lot of ‘Well, who does work on the strip? Who does work in a hotel? Who do I know?’”
A sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences chose to remain anonymous, but attended the vigil “to show support for people affected […] mainly for Las Vegas.”
The student had friends who were affected, but was surprised that more students didn’t attend the on-campus vigil. However, she liked that there were multiple faiths represented in the ceremony.
“I’m glad we’re at a Jesuit institution that offers support like this,” the anonymous student said.
The vigil lasted about 45 minutes, including the ringing of the bells. Members of the University Ministry read prayers from both the Orthodox and Jewish faiths and burned incense because of the practice’s presence in multiple faiths.
Mathews said she appreciated the effort by USF. “The ringing of the bells… it all was a lot more tangible,” Mathews said, “It seemed infinite.”
Mathews and Doblado described the support for Las Vegas here in the Bay Area. “They’ve been witnessing the outpour of support and love and strength from our city,” Doblado said of her family back home. Over nine vigils were held the day after the shooting, and people flocked to blood drives which now have two-week long waiting lists to donate, according to Mathews.
Featured Photo: USF community members embrace outside Toler Hall for a vigil memorializing victims of the Las Vegas shooting. Hursh Karkhanis/ Foghorn