ST. GEORGE – Over 300 people gathered around the clock tower on the campus of Dixie State University Monday night for a vigil offering offering solace and healing in the wake of the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
The vigil, organized by university students, offered prayers from fellow students, faculty and others. University President Richard Williams and St. George Mayor Jon Pike were also on hand to share a few words and offer prayers of their own.
A common theme of the prayers was seeking calm, comfort and support in the aftermath of what has been called “an act of pure evil.”
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“It’s important we take time to heal and to process, to forgive, and in this, I believe pray,” Pike said following the vigil.
There are many people from Las Vegas who attend Dixie State, student body president Ezra Hainsworth said. Among them are individuals who have friends or family members who are counted among those killed in Sunday night’s shooting, he said.
There were DSU students in attendance at the concert as well.
While some were at the vigil, one student is currently recovering in the hospital, Hainsworth said. She was shot in the leg and has since gone through surgery, he said.
Hainsworth called the mood at the vigil somber, yet reverent.
“I really didn’t want anything that was really loud and boisterous. I wanted it to remain simple and reverent in order to honor the people that had fallen, the people that had sacrificed their lives and committed themselves to saving others as well,” Hainsworth said.
“I think this really helps us unite and overcome what evil there is in the world,” he said.
Hainsworth gave credit to his roommate, Sky Crystal, for setting up the event. However, Crystal isn’t accepting it.
“I think God made this happen,” Crystal said. He had the idea to have a vigil on campus around 2 a.m. Monday and set up a Facebook event page for it. He said he only expected a handful of people to show up. That might have been the case if Hainsworth hadn’t been invited to attend.
“I’m well-connected over social media,” Hainsworth said. Through those connections news of the vigil spread to the school’s athletic department, to the faculty, across campus and into the community.
Crystal will simply agree that he was in the right place at the right time in order to get something rolling.
“I don’t think I can take credit for planning things,” he repeated. “I just honestly think the Holy Spirit moved this community. I think it’s something that needed to happen.”
Within Dixie State, the students from Las Vegas are like a community within a community, Crystal said, and vigil was set up as a way to provide them and others with a feeling of peace and support.
“We just want to make sure our fellow Americans out there know they are loved,” Crystal said.
During the vigil, Hainsworth told any students who needed to reach out for help to contact the student government.
As well, others can contact the American Red Cross to donate blood or donate to a Gofundme account set up by Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak to aid the shooting victims and their families.
“This shows the type of students we have at Dixie State University,” Williams said. “They have a lot of friends in Las Vegas, had several classmates and family members that were there last night. There are those who are really suffering right now, so they wanted to come together and get comfort from one another.”
The original, horrific incident that inspired the vigil occurred Sunday night during the “Route 91 Harvest Festival.” Around 22,000 people were in attendance at the outdoor country music concert when they began to be shot at from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Hotel.
Las Vegas authorities identified 64-year-old Stephen Craig Paddock, of Mesquite, Nevada as the man firing on the crowd below. When police got to his room, he was found dead inside.
Thus far investigators have found no motive for the event that’s left 59 dead and over 500 wounded.
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