The opening notes of "Hallelujah" rang out over the crowd.
Dozens gathered on the steps of the Bloomington Courthouse on a rainy Sunday night to remember the 58 lives lost Oct. 1 when gunfire rang out in Las Vegas — rattling the air with hate as powerful as the love that echoed between the rain-soaked mourners on the courthouse steps.
“All I've ever learned from love was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you,” the Ladies First a cappella group sang. Mothers clutched their children’s hands.
“Someone chose to terrorize a music festival. This is kind of our way of sticking it to the man,” Ladies First director Hannah Naddy said of the group’s decision to sing at the vigil. She was adamant that music would not be lost to terror.
A reverend, a pastor and a rabbi came together under a tiny tent to share their guidance. Each of them prayed according to their own beliefs, but their message was for all humans, not just those who are religious.
“I don’t have anything written out,” said Pastor Mark Fenstermacher of the First United Methodist Church. “We need to stay strong. Something is really broken.”
“It breaks my heart,” Fenstermacher said. “For those of you who are not a part of faith communities, I want to apologize on behalf of the times persons of faith got it wrong.”
Often when a terrorist attack gets national attention, religion is a part of the conversation.
“I want to address something we haven't addressed tonight, which I call spiritual fatigue,” Rabbi Brian Besser from Beth Shalom said. “The worst of if would be if we began to believe we were stuck in this endless cycle. To my mind, the loss of hope would be the worst tragedy.”
Students of IU and the surrounding community came out to share their fears of the present and hopes for the future.
“The gift of a candlelight vigil is simply to hold space,” Reverend Karla Kamstra of the Bridge Spiritual Center said. “We are here not to offer anything but gentleness around this horrible tragedy. Tonight, we grieve. The outrage stays right on the edge of that grief.”
On Oct. 1, 58 people were killed and an estimated 500 people were injured in the attack.
Paige Settles, political affairs director for IU College Democrats, said that the Las Vegas gunman used a bump stock attached to a semi-automatic weapon to kill more people. A bump stock essentially turns a semi-automatic weapon into a fully automatic weapon, and Settles is calling for the ban of this tool in America.
“The scariest thing about attacks like this is that the people who were targeted in Las Vegas were not special,” Settles said. “It makes us look for exit strategies. It makes us afraid for every person we know.”
She went on to say that this is not only a time for thoughts and prayers, but it is also a time for action.
“There’s no place in America for automatic weapons. We can’t just keep brushing it off,” she said.
Representatives from Bloomington Moms Demand Action, an advocacy group promoting common sense firearm legislation spoke in favor of change at the event.
"My name is Courtney Daily, and I'm here as a human," the group's spokesperson said.
She said she is tired of feeling angry, and the vigil marked the beginning of the healing process.
The vigil was not affiliated with any student group on campus.
"I just felt like I needed to give back what I can for my community to do something about gun violence," said organizer Allie Wineland.
As the vigil drew to a close, Wineland read all 58 names of the victims. “Thomas Day Jr.” stuck in her throat as she spoke. Someone wondered aloud about his father, ThomasDay Sr.
Ladies First stepped back on to the makeshift stage as a train whistled in the background. The opening notes of "Waiting on the World to Change" rang out over the crowd.
The audience closed its eyes for the final prayer of the night.
“We truly believe that music is one of the things that can heal the soul,” Naddy said.
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