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Grieving as a Community Vigil offers support and brings community closer

October 27, 2023

Catalina Escobedo
LIGHTING A CANDLE: Students gather in front of the Walker Art Building holding candles for the Grieving as a Community Vigil to honor the lives lost to the recent violence in Gaza and Israel. The vigil was organized by ResLife and BSG and featured student speakers.

The steps of the Walker Art Building were shrouded in silence and the soft glow of candlelight on Friday as the Bowdoin community gathered to honor the Palestinian and Israeli lives lost in the recent violence in Gaza and Israel. The Grieving as a Community Candlelight Vigil aimed to bring the Bowdoin community together to rely on each other for support and hear a few students recite poetry and prayer to remember the lives lost.

According to the United Nations, more than 5,000 individuals have been killed in Gaza and 1,400 have been killed in Israel as of October 23.

Residential Life (ResLife) and Bowdoin Student Government (BSG) co-sponsored the vigil. College administrators, including Director of ResLife Whitney Hogan and Director of the Rachel Lord Center for Religious and Spiritual Life Oliver Goodrich, helped spearhead the effort.

Opening and closing remarks were delivered by Cash Reynolds ’24, a head RA who also serves as BSG’s ResLife representative.

“We were trying to provide people with a space where, no matter who you’re there to mourn, you can mourn together as a community,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds established the tone and intention behind the event in his opening remarks. He wanted to recognize the importance of making time to be in conversation with one another and for communal silence and reflection.

“Tonight’s event is not meant to be partisan in nature. Instead, we attempt to create a space that will honor the profound human loss we witness in both Israel and Gaza,” Reynolds said. “This community will need times and spaces where we can learn, dialogue, organize and protest. But tonight, we pause and gather together to take stock of a profound human suffering that we have seen on display over the last few weeks.”

After a moment of silence, students shared poems and prayers including a piece entitled “Prayer of Mothers for Life and Peace,” which was written from the perspective of two mothers in fear for the lives and wellbeing of their children. The attendees were encouraged to place themselves in the position of a caregiver with the same fear for their loved one.

One student that spoke at the vigil, Weatherspoon ’25, wrote their own poem to recite for the vigil.

“You don’t believe you can die until death makes you a witness. Violence is an illness and the cure is our forgiveness. Anyone can be a doctor, you can write your own prescription.… Love is deep; it grows within us. So let it bloom and give us special room to grieve, recharge and energize to do the necessary things like loving one another providing aid to those in need see things that make us human. It’s these things that make us free,” Weatherspoon said.

For Reynolds, the vigil was a small pocket of communal healing amidst immeasurable pain of the last several weeks.

“It was sort of a colder night, and everyone was huddled together with their candles,” Reynolds said. “There was as much comfort as I think we could make [for] a space like that…. People were really in community. It felt like everyone was together.”

Attendee Asher Savel ??’26 shared Reynolds’s sentiment about the importance of coming together as a community during these difficult times and taking the time out of busy schedules to reflect.

“It was less of what was said or what was done. I really appreciated everyone gathering together and taking a moment. A lot of the people who [were] getting out there citing poems that made you think … and pay your respects. I think it was the group taking this moment for ourselves to heal,” Savel said.

Ultimately, the vigil was created to honor the countless lives lost and serve as a reminder to the Bowdoin community to care for one another in need. In his closing remarks, Reynolds reminded students of the resources at their disposal.

“As we leave here tonight, please remember to take care of one another, and remember that you are part of a community that has a lot of resources to support you,” Reynolds said. “Places like counseling, wellness, the Rachel Lord Center for Spiritual [Life] and [the Center for] Multicultural Life. All these people [are] represented here tonight. There are places on this campus that can support you, and if those places don’t feel like a place that’s welcome to you, turn to your peers. Someone here cares deeply about you.”

Emma Kilbride contributed to this report.


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