“Oh no, the wind blew my candle out,” a student said as she walked through campus. Quickly, two other students offered her a light off of their own candle. Then it happened again, and again. Every time a person’s candle went out, another student stopped to offer their flame.
With the wind gusting through campus, approximately 30 Castleton students and faculty members somberly walked together on April 30.
They gathered to remember the 33 Virginia Tech students and faculty who were killed by a classmate on April 16. The memorial, which began at 8 p.m. at the amphitheatre, was put together by students Donna Sims and Yvette Furnia.
Upon arrival, people were given a lit candle in a paper cup along with a maroon and orange ribbon to represent Virginia Tech’s school colors. Sims then opened the event off by saying how important she thought it was to remember the deceased students and faculty.
The attendees then walked from the amphitheatre through the residential side of campus, crossed South St. and continued through the other side of campus down Seminary St., before turning down Main St. and heading back where they started.
Sims said she wanted to host a memorial because she didn’t feel like anyone was doing anything about the situation. Simms talked to faculty members and they decided to hold an open forum on April 20 about what could be done.
“Yvette had the idea of doing the march and speak out and I really wanted a candlelight vigil and moment of silence. That was the best way I felt something could be done,” Sims said in an interview.
After people took their seats around the amphitheatre, Furnia spoke to the group, saying, “It was my idea to have a speak-out because I wanted to speak out.”
Furnia went on to talk about the symbolism she saw in the candles.
“The wind was blowing people’s candles out and we stopped as a group and kept relighting them. The flame symbolized the students who were killed, relighting them showed we are keeping these people in our memory,” Furnia said.
Furnia went on to say that she was a friend of one of the students who was killed. On April 17, Furnia checked her friend’s Facebook page and saw people’s messages asking where she was and if she was OK. After a busy day that Furnia hadn’t had much time to think about what had happened, it was then that it really sunk in that it was real.
“I had nightmares and couldn’t sleep. I got up at 6 and checked her Facebook page and saw R.I.P.,” Furia said.
“I think it had to do with hate,” Furnia said as her voice cracked and tears began to roll down her cheek.
Sims then spoke, saying that it was important to her because the people who died could have been anyone.
“People say it couldn’t happen here, but it could happen here,” she said.
Sims, who owns a Smith and Wesson Lady .38, doesn’t blame guns for what happened. “I’m pro guns, I grew up shooting guns since I was 5,” she said.
After the memorial, Sims said that she thought the tragedy would never be forgotten.
“I have already begun talking with students about how we can continue to remember them for years to come, because it didn’t happen to them, it happened to us, and all of the college kids across the nation,” she said.
Senior, Ariel Delaney, who attended the memorial, came up with the idea of graduates wearing a maroon and orange ribbon as another way of remembering the lives that were lost.
The memorial moved all who attended.
“The memorial was emotional, but it was a good way for closure. The tragedy will never be forgotten,” said Ashley Given, who was in attendance.