In the wake of a mass shooting in Las Vegas that killed 59 and left hundreds injured on Sunday night, students across campus have expressed concern for friends and loved ones in Nevada, as well as fear for their own safety after false reports of a shooting rocked campus Monday.
Dozens of students, each carrying lighted candles, held back tears as they stood outside the Office of Religious Life for a candlelight vigil organized on Monday evening to honor the victims of Sunday’s deadly attack in Las Vegas.
Niv Shahmoon, a freshman majoring in accounting, attended the vigil with his high school friends from Las Vegas. Two of Shahmoon’s close friends and his sister’s childhood best friend were shot and injured during the attack.
“This is unifying,” Shahmoon said, referring to the vigil. “It’s showing me the home away from home, a sanctuary where we can all be together.”
Jim Burklo, the senior associate dean of religious life, began the ceremony with a statement of solidarity and comfort to the students. While we are not all directly connected to the attack in Las Vegas, he said, we all share an indirect connection through the Trojan Family.
Several students offered prayers out loud for the community. One student holding a rose connected the Vegas shooting with the campus lockdown earlier in the day. She asked the community to pray for the USC professor who “fell victim” to the horror and trauma of the Las Vegas attack.
Other students aimed to honor the victims in Las Vegas by providing whatever aid they could. Matthew Hemm, a senior majoring in philosophy, politics and law, said that he and his friends went to the Red Cross to donate blood on Monday. He said he knew several dozen people who had gone to the Route 91 Harvest festival, all of whom were accounted for without injury. However, he wished he could have been there to help, as he is a licensed paramedic.
“I’m still in awe, like it’s not real,” Hemm wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan. “Many of my friends are traumatized … having been in the zone of gunfire, seeing people physically shot.”
Provost Michael Quick sent a community-wide memorandum Monday afternoon showing support for members of the Trojan Family who were in any way impacted by the shooting in Las Vegas.
“We are deeply saddened by the horrific events in Las Vegas,” the memo read. “The images from the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history are difficult to view, and it’s even more difficult to imagine the pain and anguish being experienced by the families and loved ones of the victims. Our thoughts and prayers go out to them.”
Quick also sent out a memo regarding the campus lockdown, advising students to contact Student Counseling Services or the Eric Cohen Student Health Center if they were affected by the day’s events.
“In the aftermath of the tragic events in Las Vegas on Sunday, we understand this a time of stress and anxiety,” Quick wrote in the memo. “We want to remind you of the counseling resources we have available.”
Burklo reiterated this message at Monday’s vigil, reassuring students that the USC staff is here to support them.
“But we are not your best resource — you are,” Burklo said. “We all need to care for each other and look out for each other.”