Drexel University held a vigil for Japan March 16, in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed parts of the country March 11.
President John Fry issued a statement via email to the University community March 15 announcing the vigil and expressing the University’s commitment to support those directly affected by the disaster.
“I am relieved to report that no Drexel community members working, studying or visiting Japan were injured in last week’s earthquake and resulting tsunami,” Fry wrote. “A number of students from Japan are part of our Drexel community, and I am thankful that their immediate families appear to be safe, although we know that no one in Japan is unaffected by this unfolding tragedy. We will support our Japanese students however we can as they gauge the impact on their families and their lives.”
About 30 people attended the vigil in the gallery of the James E. Marks Intercultural Center. Before the event started, there was a somber atmosphere in the gallery, which was adorned with candles and yellow chrysanthemums, the national flower of Japan.
Professor of psychology and Athletic Director Eric Zillmer played his guitar as people filed in. Zillmer, a native of Japan, and several other members of the University community delivered remarks and readings.
“This spectacle of nature is so disturbing to watch because our own sense of reality has been violated,” Zillmer said. “One feels out of control.”
Brian Musser, coordinator of spiritual life at Drexel
, said he was praying for grace and peace for those directly affected by the tragedy and for everyone else who saw images of the devastation from afar.
“Sometimes evil things happen on such a scale that we have to respond. We must,” Musser said. “Our spirits demand it, our humanity commands us to do something.”
Musser continued, “May you have peace, and may tragedy and chaos be far from your home. But when you find yourself in the midst of evil, or in the valley of the shadow of death, may you have the grace to make it through.”
Akiko Barnes, associate director of admissions and a native of Japan, said she was touched by the compassion her American friends and coworkers showed her the day of the tsunami.
“Last Friday I was on the train to come to work at 7 a.m. My iPhone was really busy because I was constantly receiving emails and text messages from friends and colleagues here in the U.S. And once I got to my office at enrollment management, my colleagues came to me with teary eyes. I was so touched, and they were just really, really concerned about my family in Japan,” Barnes said.
Lucas Hippel, president of the Undergraduate Student Government Association, encouraged students to offer their support in whatever ways they can. He said students might ask themselves, “As a twenty-some-year-old trying to finish college, what can I do? I don’t have money to send. I don’t have the support to offer.”
To students who have these thoughts Hippel said, “Use the skills and the resources that you’re gaining here at Drexel to become a future responder so that when disasters happen in the future – and they will – we can go forth and put forth the resources that others are doing currently.”
The vigil ended with a lighting of candles outside and a moment of silence. Natives of Japan in attendance were welcome to take the chrysanthemums that had been purchased for the event.
The University has set up a website with the American Red Cross for students, faculty and staff to make donations to the relief effort. As of April 4, $1,905 had been donated through the University.