UWF students hold candlelight vigil for Las Vegas massacre
By Rachel Witbracht
On Oct. 2, a candlelight vigil was held on the Cannon Green at the University of West Florida to honor the 58 killed and more than 500 injured during a mass shooting in Las Vegas.
The memorial attracted more than 100 UWF students who held a moment of silence and joined together in prayer to reflect on the tragedy and show support for the victims.
Stephen Paddock, 64, opened fire on festival-goers at the Route 91 Harvest Festival, held across the street from the Mandalay Bay Resort; he had at least 23 weapons in his hotel room, from which he shot. There were an estimated 22,000 people in attendance at the festival.
Sophomore business management major Johnathan Martinez led the students in a prayer at the memorial.
“We didn’t expect anyone to come,” Martinez said. “We just wanted people around the campus to come out and support.”
Student organizations mass texted and posted on their Facebook and Twitter pages to rally members in hopes of showing unity as a campus in commemoration of the victims. Martinez said that they decided to hold the event only two hours prior.
“The turnout was amazing for the vigil Monday night. When we organized it, we truly weren’t expecting a ton of people to come just because it was so last minute,” said UWF student Jacob Benefield, who organized the event. “It wasn’t necessarily a matter of how many people showed up because we just really wanted to be there to support everyone who was hurting.”
Through social media and word of mouth, the event attracted a myriad of students in an exceptionally short amount of time.
“I was really pleased to see fellow students on the Cannon Green reflecting on the tragedy that happened just 24 hours before,” junior Abigail Megginson said. “It was clear the students truly understood the gravity of the Las Vegas shooting. I was proud to be an Argo at that moment.”