October 1, 2015. My family and friends were texting me. “Are you ok?”
I ignored them.
I knew what they were asking and I didn’t want to go there.
I didn’t want to return to a horrible day at Northern Illinois University — Valentines Day 2008 —when a student burst into a classroom and started shooting. Months before this heinous act on a campus that was supposed to be safe, I had begun serving as a campus pastor. Years later as news broke this past Thursday that there was another shooting on another “safe” campus I tried my best to ignore the realities that come with such a tragedy.
I didn’t want to remember the screams of disbelief from friends and family who discovered that a dear one had been wounded, or even worse, killed. I didn’t want to remember the scenes of confusion and cries of terror in the hospital emergency room. I didn’t want to remember the funerals and vigils. I didn’t want to go there.
But tonight, here at DePaul, I WILL go there.
I will stand with students, faculty and staff around the St. Vincent Circle in the heart of campus and I WILL go there. I will enter into the depths of heartache and I will stand with others as a gesture of solidarity against violence in our communities, on our campuses, in our world. I will remember all of the people in a slumbering university town not too far from Chicago who were affected by gun violence. I will reflect upon all of those in Roseburg, Oregon and throughout the country whose hearts are broken and whose lives are disrupted by another senseless killing rampage. And I will pray for peace and yearn for the same in my heart and the hearts of victims of violence.
Taking a few moments to light a candle, to offer prayer and to take a stand against violence may seem like a very small thing to do. But I know–having been with the mothers and fathers, sisters, grandparents, professors, friends, brothers and broken community members—that such a small gesture is more powerful than anyone can imagine. I know how important moments of remembering are for those who are trying to make sense out of the senseless. I know the warmth and balm that one small shining candle can bring to hearts broken.
Tonight, WE must go there! We must go and stand with our brothers and sisters near and far and pray. We must go there to remember those who have died and those who are dying inside over loss of life and so much more. We must go there to let the world know that this school, built upon the foundations of loving and serving one another, is standing solidly together to offer a bit of balm and a prayer for peace for all those whose lives are ripped apart—or ended—by violence.
Tonight, standing around St. Vincent’s Circle, our lights will burn, our prayers will be offered and we will tell our sisters and brothers in Roseburg and the world that we are resolved to be lovers of peace and caretakers of one another. Tonight we must go there!
Rev. Diane Dardon is a Protestant Chaplain at DePaul. She invites you to join the DePaul Interfaith Scholars tonight at 6:00p.m. in St. Vincent’s Circle for a Vigil to honor those slain last week at Umpqua Community College.