A Vigil for the Lives Lost in New Zealand

As a Christian who knows the truth about the love of Jesus Christ, and his desire for us to actively love one another -- a deed  demonstrated during his life on this earth, it truly hurts my heart every time people of any religion or race are killed in acts of violence. I have somehow gotten slightly desensitized to hearing about the next police killing, or church bombing. Maybe a  protective mechanism? Especially being in medical school where you are constantly expected to perform at a high level all the time. You have to be conscious of how you are expending your energy and giving your time. I had to figure out ways to take care of myself, especially when I’m preparing to take care of sick/vulnerable people for the majority of my life. I even stopped watching the news a long time ago, in an attempt to reduce the emotional toll it takes on me. I am not saying this was necessarily the best step, but it has been what I needed -- to keep my cup a little more full for someone else.

When the incident in New Zealand occurred, I said a prayer for the families that were affected and switched my thoughts over to my exam. I have gotten so used to doing it. But thank God for some of the amazing students at my school who helped me remember the importance of active love. Four first-year students at my school organized a vigil for the lives that were lost and invited students, faculty/staff, and the local community to come together and remember the lives that were lost so senselessly.

"We wanted to create a space for people to acknowledge the victims of the New Zealand attack and mourn the lives lost. We didn’t see a space for MSU students in GR to do that, so we created one.  We decided to host it in the city center and invite the local community to join because we feel as future physicians we have a responsibility to be involved in our community. We eventually would like to start a conversation about gun violence and mental health as it relates to our future profession, but for now we are just focusing on honoring the victims."

-Miriam Hjiage, MS1

I took a study break to come out and take photos with no expectations of what the turnout would be. And I was surprised at the beautiful turnout. As more people arrived, I could feel the chills (both literal cause I was cold) creep down my spine as the crowd grew. As the organizers began to read off the names and short stories of those who had died, I could feel the tears welling up. With each name called, another candle was lit, and that flame was shared with those nearby.

As medical students, we must learn how to maintain our empathy when we are constantly exposed to emotionally charged situations. Gatherings like this remind me of why I have chosen to follow this calling. These students brought humanity and dignity back to a horrible situation, and gave me the space to be and actively love in my own way. Thank you.

Below are some of the photos from the vigil. Praying that you get a little bit of your humanity back if you’ve been getting desensitized too.

Osose Oboh