By Michelle Lampariello & Nicole Viviano
Editor-in-Chief & Staff Writer
As peaceful music permeated the room, brothers of Phi Kappa Psi quickly added rows of chairs to the hundreds already set up in the Brower Student Center Room 100. Though the non-denominational vigil to honor car crash victims Danielle DeFlores, Matthew DeGenova, Anthony Galante, Ryan Moore and Michael Sot did not start until 8 p.m., it was clear that Catholic Campus Ministry was expecting a much larger crowd than initially anticipated.
The vigil, organized by CCM with help from Student Government for booking purposes and several Greek organizations for publicity, was originally scheduled to be held in the Spiritual Center. Hundreds of campus community members gathered to support one another as the five students remain in critical condition.
The majority of vigil attendees belonged to Greek organizations — DeGenova, Galante, Moore and Sot are brothers of Phi Kappa Psi, and DeFlores is a sister of Delta Zeta. Brothers and sisters from their organizations, as well as students from other fraternities and sororities, banded together in support.
Vanessa Rutigliano, a junior psychology major and CCM’s publicist, began the vigil by explaining CCM’s efforts to host a non-denominational service for members of the campus community that share different religious and spiritual beliefs. Rutigliano also informed the crowd that personnel from Counseling and Psychological Services as well as the Dean of Students’ office were in attendance and happy to speak with students in need of assistance.
“I’m heartbroken and I’m concerned about the students and their reaction to this,” said Mark Forest, director of CAPS. “We need to come together as a community and to support one another. Make sure that everyone knows that there are resources, and certainly the first one is for people to practice good self-care, talk with friends to talk with family, to gather support.”
Following a general opening prayer, CCM’s band sang several songs for the crowd, including the hymns “Draw Me Close,” “You Are Mine,” “Mighty to Save,” “I Can Only Imagine,” and “Hungry.”
Students were then encouraged to leave anonymous messages inside a prayer box at the front of the room to express their concern and support for their classmates who remain in the hospital.
Father Erin Brown of CCM addressed the crowd, and reminded the audience that in tragic times, supporting one another is key to finding light in darkness. Brown explained that in times of tragedy, it is important to have a “healthy perspective.”
“The healthy perspective — it doesn’t remove the pain, but it limits unnecessary suffering,” he said. “It doesn’t see what we want to see, but allows us to better encounter everything that we must face to move forward. It doesn’t run away from the truth — it enables us to put things in their proper place.”
Brown acknowledged that no speech or words of encouragement could remedy the situation, but hope and strength in community are vital in trying times.
“The days leading up to Christmas are all about hope, and that’s what we have tonight,” Brown said.