Students left classes early on Friday and headed to Eisenhower lawn to mourn the death of those killed by gun violence. Speakers composed of students, faculty and administrators memorialized those affected and called attention to a need for societal change.
Organized by Toby Doyle, ’19, and Sam Rockhill, ’19, the hour and a half walkout featured speakers such as Jamie-Claire Chau, Kim Phipps, Drew Hart, Lynn Maynard, Kevin Villegas and others.
Amongst the crowd of students were faces and names of gun violence victims printed on posters. Students were asked to look at those faces as if they were their own siblings or friends and to mourn as they stood in solidarity with each other.
Junior Marissa Donlevie recognized the danger her future career could put her in if gun violence remains as prevalent as it is. “As a future teacher, it scares me a little to think that my career will put me on a battlefield, which it shouldn’t really have to,” she said.
For others, the walkout was a way to speak up for those who aren’t being heard. “This walkout is a way to use my voice and to advocate for those who don’t have a voice,” junior Erin Herzog said.
Phipps highlighted Messiah’s Brethren in Christ roots and the importance of peace to that faith tradition. “We are grateful for the church’s commitment to peace which informs our own commitment as Messiah College,” Phipps said during her speech.
Karly Laird, ’18, also touched on Messiah’s core values by saying, “If we are going to say we care about people, then movements like this and demonstrating this is what’s important.”
Chau testified about her own experience with gun violence in her hometown and how that has affected her view on gun violence. She also urged students to truly empathize with and mourn for those whose lives have been taken. “The suffering of one must be the suffering of all,” Chau said.
Villegas shared his perspective on the topic as a parent of two children. He described the fear he has and the prayers for protection he prays over them each day. “Looking out at them [the pictures of victims], I see some that remind me of my children and my heart breaks for the parents that have lost their children,” Villegas said.
Sarah Fe Harris, ’19, and Chau led the audience in singing We Shall Overcome. Rockhill also read a poem written by her and sophomore Kat Kelly.
The shirt-dressed crosses that displayed the names of gun violence victims served as a backdrop to the event. Earlier in the week Human Rights Awareness filled the lawn next to Hoffman with this display. Signs posted around the display urged students to pray and remember the victims and their families.
Director of Campus Safety Lynn Maynard shared practical ways to avoid active shooter situations and to respond when there is one. “If you see something, say something,” Maynard said.
To close the event, senior Daniel Collins prayer and quoted Archbishop Oscar Romero who was killed by gun violence. He said:
“The great need today is for Christians who are active and critical, who don’t accept situations without analyzing them inwardly and deeply. We no longer want masses of people like those who have been trifled with for so long. We want persons like fruitful fig trees, who can say yes to justice and no to injustice and can make use of the precious gift of life, regardless of the circumstances” (Romero 1980).
The walkout can be viewed here.