The Washington Post

Vigil at U-Md. strives for healing, helping others

University of Maryland students embrace at the conclusion of a vigil at the Memorial Chapel on campus in College Park Tuesday. (Jared Soares/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)

More than 300 people gathered in the University of Maryland's Memorial Chapel Tuesday evening to reflect on the violence that rocked their community, taking the lives of two students and seriously injuring a third.

Pastors of different faiths, along with campus officials and leaders, took turns speaking about healing, forgiveness and reaching out to anyone who might feel alone on the large campus.

They spoke of the three students who were involved in the shooting at an off-campus house early Tuesday morning: Dayvon M. Green, the engineering graduate student who police say pulled a gun out of his waistband, shot at two of his housemates and then killed himself. Stephen A. Rane, a senior English major who was shot and killed. And a student who survived being shot and has not been publicly identified by police.

"All of us are deeply shocked and saddened," said U-Md. President Wallace Loh. "The telephone call that woke me up early this morning will keep me wakeful for many nights. This violent act haunts us all now and for some time to come."

The interfaith service lasted just 45 minutes, opening with the calming tones of an all-male a cappella group and ending with a plea from a religious leader for those gathered to use the counseling center and other campus resources. The audience included students, staff and faculty, local politicians, Bible study groups and several university police officers in uniform. Some quietly leaned toward one another to whisper thoughts. Others hugged, but most just listened. The altar held a single white candle, while more candles flickered in a garden outside the chapel.

The president of the U-Md. Graduate Student Government reflected on how prevalent violence has become and how even university students are not immune from it. A United Methodist pastor strummed a guitar as she sang: "I want to get it through to you, you're not alone." The undergraduate student body president urged her classmates to not be afraid to seek counseling. "It's okay to not be okay,” she said. “Asking for help is a sign of strength."

None of the speakers spoke personally of the three men the service was focused on, or provided any details of their lives beyond their names -- and one victim remained nameless. Again and again, prayer leaders recited words such as peace, forgive, healing and community. But Loh also spoke of the need for change to prevent a future tragedy, although he did not give specifics.

"There are lessons to be learned, policy questions to be discussed and changes to be made," Loh said. "When our shock is dimmed, we will work together as a community to see that all of these appropriate acts are taken. We will not forget. We will act."

Jenna Johnson is a political reporter who is covering the 2016 presidential campaign.

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