Students Using Facebook to Organize Vigilsby Tricia Sangalang
News Staff Writer
April 17, 2007
In addition to the convocation at Cassell Coliseum scheduled for Tuesday afternoon by the university, students across the country are organizing their own vigils to honor those involved in Monday’s shootings. For many of these students, Facebook is their main means of communicating the event or group to others.
“I sent out the group at about 6 p.m. (Monday) to 80-100 people. About 45-50 people actually attended,” freshman Thomas Lane said. “I’m impressed by the universities all over the country. Schools from all over have sent me things. There is even a JMU Facebook group for Tech, which is great.”
Lane created the event, “PY Prayer Vigil,” which took place in the downstairs lobby of Peddrew-Yates residence hall at 9 p.m. Monday.
“There was a lot of tears,” Lane said. “It was encouraging and sad at the same time. We bonded a lot and just wanted to send the message that we’re there for each other.”
A simple “vigil Virginia Tech” search will bring up a number of hits for groups or events created by students. Some are for candlelit gatherings at a public location, like War Memorial Chapel, or a personal reflection open to “everyone everywhere.”
A search conducted today would bring up many events encouraging students at any university to wear maroon and orange.
An event called “Remembrance Day” features a tagline stating, “Forget any and all college affiliations today. For we are all Hokies.”
Jose Torres, a student at New River Valley Community College who plans to attend Virginia Tech next semester, created an event called, “Student Gathering at the Drillfield.” Over 1,000 students were invited to attend, and 176 confirmed, to gather on the drillfield near War Memorial Chapel beginning at 8:30 p.m. Monday.
“We got together and made a big VT sign and tied it to a tree. Students came, talked to others, and signed. We want to show everyone we’re going to stick together,” Torres said. “We can go and see there are other people who share how we feel. I’ve had many people I don’t know come up to me and say, ‘thank you for making this event.’”
Just before midnight, Torres returned to his apartment to get more paper for the guest sign-in binder. He estimated over 200 people had attended by that point. The event was scheduled to continue until 2:30 this morning.
Students at the University of Virginia, in California, in Canada, in Denver, at the University of Florida, and Cabrini are among the many who have used Facebook as the main communication medium for vigils, moments of silences and just simple remembrances.
“I’m planning a vigil for this Friday at our ‘spirit rock.’ I remember when Columbine happened and I just felt it was needed to give support,” said Lauren Yono, advertising and public relations major at Michigan State University. “I spread the word through Facebook hoping hundreds of people will come. Facebook has become easier than e-mail and I felt it was the best way to contact people.”
Yono created a group entitled, “Spartans Memoralizing Virginia Tech Tragedy,” where, in the description, encouraged her fellow students that “it is of character to come together and show support for the Virginia Tech Hokies and all those suffering form such a tragic incident.”
Brandon Hayes, a sophomore and management major, is an admin for the event “Evening Vigil,” and is friends with the creator, Rebecca Spilman.Students are encouraged to light a candle outside his or her room or window to remember those who have died. In the description, Spilman suggests participants should “ask (themselves) how many more will it take until we realize our generation needs to make a change.”
“I invited a few from my Facebook friends because you can communicate to a mass amount of people in a little amount of time,” Hayes said. “(Spilman) created the event because she is wonderful and cares about everyone. With it not having a location or a time, it shows that people should remember those affected all the time.”
In each event or group, the common theme is a sense of camaraderie, encouraging students everywhere to “come together” or to “rally behind the Hokies.”
In the wake of the tragic events, students have shown they want to “get to the next stage” as Torres said. “No one wants to be alone. We lost friends. We lost our Hokies. Many of us are afraid that it could have be us.”