By Amani Salahudeen
One was a well-known soccer player. Another was visiting New Zealand for the first time. One had become a father just days before. Another was only three years old.
On March 15, 50 victims were killed by a 28-year-old gunman in Christchurch, New Zealand at the Al Noor mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre.
Across the world, thousands of people gathered to mourn and honor the innocent victims through vigils and donating to the victims’ families online, according to The News.
Although they are thousands of miles away from New Zealand, many students at the College were deeply impacted by the tragedy.
The College hosted a candlelit vigil to honor the victims on March 28 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Spiritual Center. The victims’ names were spoken and remembered, as students recited du’aas (supplications) and had a moment of silence.
“I think that the shooting is horrible and tragic,” said Lorena LiMato, a senior music education major. “I believe that any loss of life is something we should all grieve, especially if an innocent group is targeted.”’
Many students also added that the tragedy could have happened to anyone.
“This was definitely heartbreaking and I cried reading every post I came across because this could have been any of us — not just a mosque,” said Zahra Memon, a senior deaf education and biology dual major. “This could have been a church, synagogue, temple and the worst part is that these houses of worship have been attacked before.”
Others were scared for their own families.
“I felt angry that something like this could happen, (but) I was also scared that something like this could happen to my own family,” said Ali Shamshad, a senior business major.
In response to the attack, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern banned military-style semi-automatic weapons, assault rifles and high-capacity magazines, according to CNN.
Inspired by Ardern’s actions, students at the College were driven to fight back against gun violence.
“I don’t know a lot of Muslims (mostly because of the area I live in has a large Catholic demographic) , but I do have a couple of Muslim friends,” LiMato said. “I think having (them) makes it more real for me … the fact that someone would attack people that are just like some of the people in my life that I hold dear makes me angry.”
Many believe that the attack should result in a greater effort to build a safe environment for the Islamic community.
“(Masjids) should have voluntary security or contact local authorities next time someone suspicious shows up at the masjid,” Shamshad said.
Each of the students agreed that society needs to join together to create a safer world for everyone.
“I think they can have open discussions with adults and children alike – because the world, unfortunately, is no longer a safe place,” Memon said. “I would have suggested a security system, but the mosque serves as an open space, where so many events take place — not just prayers. People get married at the mosque, people celebrate their children’s accomplishments at the mosque, people host their Eid events at the mosque — it’s meant to be an open and safe space for everyone.”