In Memory of 33 Victims of Virginia Tech Tragedy, Andover Holds Service

In response to the Virginia Tech shooting that occurred on Monday, April 16, the Andover chaplaincy organized a memorial service for the PA community last Friday. Despite the warm sunshine that finally lit up the campus, students and faculty sat in silence in the Cochran Chapel last Friday. They filled several of the front pews in the Chapel and commemorated the tragic loss of the 33 Virginia Tech students and faculty. Recently, the New York Times published information about the victims that died in the shooting. Jarrett Lee Lane, 22, studied civil engineering in college. He played the trombone, ran track and played football and basketball in high school, and graduated as valedictorian of this class. Emily Jane Hilscher, 19, was only a freshman when the tragedy occurred. An animal lover her entire life, she studied animal and poultry sciences in college and worked at a veterinarian’s office. According to her friend Will Nachless, Hilscher “was always very friendly. Before I even knew her, I thought she was very outgoing, friendly and helpful.” Honoring the lives of Lane, Hilscher, and the other victims of the shooting, a table with maroon candles decorated with orange ribbons, to be lit later during the service, adorned the table on the stage. Head of School Barbara Chase made the opening remarks of the service. She said, “After such an event, we ask ourselves unanswerable questions. How could such a tragedy happen on a college campus filled with young, hopeful, bright students?” she inquired. “How has our country become a place where violence breaks out in so many places, where guns are so prevalent? As people who believe in the inherent goodness of our fellow human beings, we ask, ‘How could another human being do such a thing?’ And we realize, as your teachers, your parents, as the adults who love you, that we do not have the answers to these questions.” Chase continued, “We are a global community. Sadly, we know that there is violence and loss of life around our globe every day. Yet when another academic campus is stricken as Virginia Tech was, we feel an especially close sympathy…We, who have so often cheered for the Big Blue, send our prayers southward to our sisters and brothers at Virginia Tech.” Directly after Mrs. Chase’s oration, Chelsea Carlson ’09 plucked a calming melody on the harp, allowing time for the students and faculty to reflect upon the speech. The chaplains Rabbi Neil Kominsky, Chaplain Theodore Kepes, and Reverend Michael Ebner ’70 also delivered short messages to those who attended the memorial service. Rabbi Kominsky inspired hope to the mourners: “Death, even a tragic, untimely death, does not deprive life of meaning. We are rightly sad, but we do not, must not, despair.” Chaplain Kepes quoted Psalms 130 of the Bible: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits / And in his word I put my hope. / My soul waits for the Lord / More than watchmen wait for the morning, / More than watchmen wait for the morning.” Reverend Ebner offered consolation. “Just as without tears there can be no laughter, without death, there can be no living,” he said. “We have come to believe that the best still lies ahead.” Following the reverend’s speech, 33 students and faculty solemnly made their way to the table to light 33 candles, each of which represented a victim of the Virginia Tech tragedy. During this somber ceremonial procession, the Chapel bells chimed 33 times as well, followed by a long moment of silence. Throughout this time, the flickering orange glow covered the table like a blanket. Lydia Dallett ’08, one of the students who lit a candle, said that seeing all 33 candles spread out across the table shocked her; she had not fully realized just how many people had fallen victim to the incident. “I can’t imagine what sort of person would do that. The more you let yourself think about [the shooting], the worse it gets,” she reflected. Several minutes passed before Mrs. Chase parted the students and faculty, saying, “Please go in peace and enjoy the beautiful sunshine.” Scott Dzialo ’09 and Courtney Crutchfield ’09 found enjoying the weather difficult after such a solemn memorial service. “I think it’s really easy to go about completely forgetting that something really tragic happened. The only way to help yourself and to gain from it is to remember it first and come to terms with it on your own,” said Dzialo. Despite the grief that both Dzialo and Crutchfield felt for people whom they never knew, both optimistically looked towards the future. “I think it was a really effective service. It helped me finally recognize that something had happened. In a weird way, it helped me get over [the shooting],” Dzialo maintained. “The service showed there’s more to the whole situation than just misery…Every life has a purpose,” said Crutchfield. The service not only provided emotional support for those struggling to understand the horror of the incident but hope for the future as well.