By Lizzie Howell, Emory University STAND
My first week back at Emory University this semester was filled with excitement as I reunited with friends and marveled at the opportunities that the coming months would undoubtedly bring. At the same time, I couldn’t help but question the decisions I had made in college so far. Did I choose the right major? Was I involved in meaningful extracurricular activities? Was I on track to have a successful career?
Even though I am only a sophomore, it has already become evident that the decisions I’ve made will impact the rest of my college career and beyond. I just kept wishing I had a little more time.
Time. Time to explore every academic discipline that attracts my interest. Time to gain experiences that would prepare me for many career paths. Time to form meaningful relationships with each of the incredible people I’m lucky enough to call classmates or professors.
Time that the students at Aleppo University did not have.
I’ll admit, when one of my fellow STAND members brought the bombing of Aleppo University to my attention, I didn’t spend much time reflecting on the implications of such a tragedy. Of course I was sympathetic, but I was also somewhat desensitized to such events because of their frequent appearances in the media.
It was not until I attended a vigil for the students of Aleppo University on Friday, Jan. 18 that it became clear just how trivial my personal worries were.
The sun had just begun to set as I gathered with about 20 other members of the Emory community. There weren’t a lot of us; most attendees were from STAND or Amnesty International, the organizations who co-sponsored the event. Others were simply friends with members of those groups.
We stood reverently in a circle around tea light candles in the shape of a peace sign on the ground. One student read an interfaith prayer asking for compassion and understanding between seemingly different groups of people.
Each of us also held a tea light candle in our hands, which we placed within the peace sign one by one as the same student read of the names of the victims of the bombing.
Five Syrians, some of whom had formerly studied at Aleppo University were also present at the vigil. At its conclusion they shared heartfelt words of gratitude and prayed for strength for those affected by the tragedy.
It didn’t take long—only about 25 minutes—but all of us present had taken time out of our day to remember the students who had died in the bombing. Students who really weren’t that different from us.
I cannot fathom the pain that those affected by the bombing must feel, nor can I comprehend the destruction it has caused to those connected to Aleppo University. I think of my own friends who all work incredibly hard and have such bright futures ahead of them. I try to imagine what it would to do my University’s community, if we were the victims of a similar tragedy, but I will never understand such consequences.
We are no less deserving to study in a safe environment than were the students at Aleppo University, yet we are here while they are gone.
At the end of the vigil one of my friends turned to me and broke the silence by saying, “It just makes you thankful.” And that it does.