State College Community Gathers For Vigil To Honor Shooting Victims
Penn State students and State College residents came together at the Allen Street Gates on Monday to remember the victims of the shootings that occurred last Thursday.
Jordan Witmer, 21, of Bellefonte, shot and killed 62-year-old Dean Beachy, 19-year-old Steven Beachy, and wounded 21-year-old Nicole Abrino at the P.J. Harrington’s bar in the Ramada Hotel Thursday night. Witmer then drove to Tussey Lane, where he crashed his car, broke into a home, and killed 83-year-old George McCormick before taking his own life.
The vigil was orchestrated by Standing at the Gates for Justice, an organization that has coordinated vigils every Monday at the Allen Street Gates for the past two years to combat the various injustices afflicting disenfranchised groups in America.
“I don’t think any community wants to have a vigil like this to occur, and I think we need to be up front and own that this is now a part of our reality in State College,” said Ben Wideman, pastor and leader of the student organization 3rd Way Collective, who acted as host of the vigil.
Members of Standing at the Gates for Justice passed out candles to a crowd of about 50 students and community members who gathered for the vigil while Wideman and others spoke about how the community can recover.
Michelle McMullen, member of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, spoke at length about how legislators can make their communities safer by educating their constituents about gun safety and “warning signs” of mental health issues that could cause an people to resort to violence.
“Our hearts are broken, our spirit is not, and it is with this knowledge that we are able to move forward with purpose and strength,” McMullen closed.
Wideman then spoke briefly about each victim and held a moment of silence for each of the four individuals that died, including Witmer, stating that the incident served as a “painful reminder of the ongoing need to create a better culture, one in which this kind of desperation does not exist.”
The vigil concluded with a prayer read by Rev. Carol Thomas Cissel of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County, who asked attendees to join hands. “Prayer works better when we touch each other,” she said.
“It is through relationships we develop empathy,” Wideman concluded, “and it is through empathy that we find a better world.”
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