A student-led vigil took place outside of the Damen Student Center March 26 where about 300 Loyola students took turns paying their respects, leaving notes and flowers and speaking about the victims of the Atlanta spa shootings that took place March 16.
The shootings occurred at two massage parlors in Atlanta, leaving eight people dead — six of whom were of Asian descent, and seven of whom were women, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
The attack has left many, including some Loyola students, afraid for their lives. The shooting comes as attacks against Asian Americans and Pacifics Islanders (AAPI) are on the rise in the wake of COVID-19 — over 3,000 incidents have been reported to the advocacy group, Stop AAPI Hate, since mid-March 2020, the Associated Press (AP) reported.
“I’m worried for my friends, for my elders, for myself,” Ling Zhang, a first-year Loyola student who organized the vigil, said.
Zhang, a psychology major, said she made a petition following the shootings calling for Loyola to allow a socially-distanced vigil to be held honoring the victims. Hundreds of students signed, and Zhang said she got a quick response from the university offering to help organize the event.
Nate Caamoan, a first-year nursing major, read a statement to the group at the vigil encouraging attendees to support one another and call for change.
“We must come together to support our community and make our voices heard, calling for action,” Caamoan said to the group. “This hatred may prevail even after COVID is seemingly over, but our love and tenacity is stronger than any opposing force.”
Zhang said she was grateful for the high turnout and amount of Loyola community members that came out in support of the victims of the shooting.
“It amazes me, I still can’t believe that or put that into thoughts, that that many people from our community wanted to come out and show support and give offerings to the Atlanta victims and their families,” Zhang said.
For Zhang, the action doesn’t stop at the vigil. She said she’s in talks with the university to organize an Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) club at Loyola.
The vigil was moved inside of Damen following the event, and will remain outside of the Campus Ministries office, according to Zhang. She said she hopes it serves as a reminder for the lives that were lost as a result of the shootings.
“We need to remember them and honor them,” Zhang said. “And I think it stands as just something for the Asian community on campus that we’re seen and we’re heard and thought of.”
Patrick Camargo, a first-year nursing major, attended the vigil and said he was glad people were getting informed about the pain the Asian American community is facing.
“Seeing everyone here, coming together, was comforting,” Camargo said.
Zhang said “it starts at home” and Loyola students should come together to support the communities impacted by the attack.
“It starts within our community, our peers, looking out for those who are in danger, looking out for the Asian community right now, especially, because I know we’re scared,” Zhang said.
News writer Nicky Andrews contributed to this report.