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Students pay tribute to Virginia Tech victims with candlelight vigil

By Adam Fenwick
Around the Campus Editor

At least 150 students gathered April 18 outside of the University Center to pay tribute to the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings on April 16 with a candlelight vigil.

Brandon Hash stands in the middle of the circle created by students as they stand quietly for a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings that took place April 16.

Photo by Adam Fenwick
Brandon Hash stands in the middle of the circle created by students as they stand quietly for a moment of silence in honor of the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings that took place April 16.

The vigil was organized by Sophomore Ashley Bunnell.  Bunnell, a psychology and counseling major, knew after hearing the news of the tragedy at Virginia Tech that she had to do something to honor and pay tribute to Virginia Tech and its students.
           
“When I heard the news I knew I wanted to do something to help Virginia Tech and show them my love as well as UNCP’s love,” Bunnell said.
           
Students gather

Students began gathering outside of the University Center a little before 7 p.m. to collect candles from members of Bunnell’s sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, who also helped in the preparation of the event.
           
The event started at 7:30 p.m. with Bunnell thanking all the students who came that day to pay tribute to the victims and their families at Virginia Tech.  This was followed by a short prayer lead by Freshman Brandon Hash.
           
Hash, a physical education major and outreach coordinator for the Baptist Student Union, was contacted by Campus Minister Ron Sanders less than an hour before the event and was asked to say the prayer. 

“I really thank Ron Sanders for getting Brandon to come and say the prayer,” Bunnell said. 
Hash said he believed that the vigil was necessary to help students and families with the grieving process.
           
“I’m glad that Ashley did something like this on our campus, it needed to be done.  I really think this will help,” Hash said.        

Following the prayer students were asked to stand for a moment of silence in honor of the students and their families who were involved in the tragedy.  After the moment of silence everyone blew out their candles.
           
Ashley Bunnell (left in black) and her mother Stacy Blevins (in green) join the rest of the members of Zeta Tau Alpha in signing a banner that will be sent to Virginia Tech in honor of the students killed April 16.

Photo by Adam Fenwick
Ashley Bunnell (left in black) and her mother Stacy Blevins (in green) join the rest of the members of Zeta Tau Alpha in signing a banner that will be sent to Virginia Tech in honor of the students killed April 16.

Strong feelings

           
Many of Bunnell’s sisters from Zeta Tau Alpha helped out during the event and had strong feelings about the Virginia Tech tragedy.
           
Lauren Glover, a freshman criminal justice major, believed that such an event showed just how unified UNCP really was. 
           
“I feel that it (the vigil) shows that our campus is unified and we care about everyone,” said Glover.  “Even though we don’t go to Virginia Tech that doesn’t mean we can’t do stuff to help them out,” she added.
           
Heather Hackney, a freshman elementary education major, believed the vigil was a chance for students to come out and grieve and see that they weren’t alone in their feelings.
           
“It gives them a chance to get out in public with other people that are mourning and lets them know they aren’t alone,” Hackney said.  
           
Family affair
           
Bunnell’s mother, Stacy Blevins, also made the trip to UNCP from Lumber Bridge, N.C., to take part in the candlelight vigil.  She brought with her Bunnell’s three younger brothers who also took part in the event. 

Blevins couldn’t express enough just how proud she was of her daughter for organizing such an event. 
           
“Words can’t express how proud I am of her,” said Blevins.  “She’s just a good person.  I just hope I can raise my three other children to be at least half of what she is.”
           
Bunnell said that she was so proud to be a student at UNCP and believed the support that was received during the vigil was tremendous.
           
“I pray that Virginia Tech starts to heal from this tragedy and I feel that every university has taken time to mourn for them,” Bunnell added.

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Updated: Thursday, April 19, 2007
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