Community coming together for a vigil to remember State College shooting victims
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – Community members host a vigil at the Allen Street Gates in downtown State College every Monday. Sometimes, just a few people attend but today drew a much bigger crowd than usual -- as the organizers chose to honor the victims of last week's deadly shooting.
"In wake of the violence that has taken four lives and left one hospitalized, we thought it was fitting to have it this week, honor those victims and remember their lives," said Ben Wideman, the pastor and event organizer for 3rd Way Collective.
A sea of people at Allen Street Gates in downtown State College helped start the healing process for people in the Centre County community -- after police said 21-year-old Jordan Witmer began a shooting rampage Thursday night.
"It's very sickening, and frightening and creepy and upsetting," State College resident Sarah Malone said.
The victims have now been identified as: 62-year-old Dean Beachy,; his son, 19-year-old Steven Beachy,; 82-year-old George McCormick and 21-year-old Nicole Abrino--, who's still in the hospital after being shot.
"I felt just sick and, as I read more about it, it happened right where I was -- near the YMCA," Malone said.
Many said the news is so shocking because it's so close to home. Organizers of the vigil said this is a way for the community to stand together in solidarity.
"I think it’s really important for us to come together. I think relationships are the only way we build empathy and I think empathy is the only way to get meaningful solutions," Wideman said.
Emotions ran high as candles were handed out and lit to shine a light on the victims' memory.
"This is now a part of reality here in State College," Wideman said.
Some organizers used this as a moment to shine a light on what they say is a bigger issue: gun control.
"Most focused on remembering the tragic victims of this senseless act of violence, but also focusing on the bigger picture here, which is framed -- the use of guns in this country," Malone said.
Organizers also offered grief counseling after the event. Meanwhile, State College police say the investigation into the shooting continues.