Members of the MIT community gathered yesterday afternoon at the MIT Chapel to share their sorrow over the shootings at Virginia Tech and to draw strength from one another.
"We need to try to take comfort in the presence of one another as we deal with a tragedy that is beyond our imagination," Institute Chaplain Robert Randolph told more than 60 people who attended the interfaith service.
Many in attendance wore Virginia Tech sweatshirts or T-shirts. As Randolph read each victim's name, members of the audience came forward to light a candle in memory of each of the 33 people killed, including the gunman.
Virginia Tech student Cho Seung-Hui shot and killed 32 students and professors at the school on Monday before turning the gun on himself, in what was the worst mass shooting in U.S. modern history.
Randolph asked mourners to take inspiration from the actions of Virginia Tech professor Liviu Librescu, a 76-year-old Holocaust survivor who blocked the door of his classroom while students jumped out the windows to escape.
"We begin (to heal) by remembering what Liviu Librescu did when he gave his life that his students might live, and we celebrate life," Randolph said. "When we leave, I hope you go forward with hope and reflect anew on the gift of life that we share together."
Larry Benedict, dean of student life, described what he experienced while he was a dean at Johns Hopkins University in 1996 when a student there shot and killed another student.
"Suddenly our peace, our sense of security and our sense of personal safety and invulnerability had been shattered by a single gun blast," he recalled, adding that the recent shootings have brought back all the emotions he experienced then.
Benedict offered hope and encouragement to those dealing with the Virginia Tech tragedy.
"Did we get through it? Yes, we did, and so will our colleagues and friends at Virginia Tech," Benedict said. "We took comfort and drew strength from one another."
During the service, prayers were offered for the victims, their families, the Virginia Tech community, and state and police leaders assisting in dealing with the aftermath of the shootings.
Randolph encouraged all those who attended the service to sign cards that will be sent to Virginia Tech on behalf of MIT and displayed on the Virginia Tech campus. Randolph also encouraged MIT students to wear orange on Friday, as part of a nationwide effort to show solidarity with Virginia Tech.