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Candlelight Vigil Held in Response to Recent Suicides

By Jessica Lewis, News Editor

After days of cold and intermittent rain, the skies cleared Tuesday night as if by providence for the 350-plus students who gathered for a candlelight vigil outside of Hofstra Hall. The vigil, hosted and organized by the University's chapter of The Pride Network, was held in response to the recent suicides of bullied teens in the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning (LGBTQ) Community.

"The vigil was in honor of the nine suicides, but also for anyone who had ever been bullied for their sexual orientation or their perceived sexual orientation," said junior Christian Fuscarino, Operations Director and Founder of The Pride Network.

The vigil was planned over the weekend in response to the suicide of Tyler Clementi, an 18-year-old freshman at Rutgers University who jumped from the George Washington Bridge on Sept. 22. after being secretly taped by his roommate during a sexual encounter with another male.

"We responded immediately [to Clementi's suicide] by organizing a vigil for Tuesday and created a Facebook event Friday," Fuscarino said.

On-campus performance groups Hofbeats and Sigma'capella sang at the vigil. "We sang because we wanted to support the community, supporting friends," said Sigma'capella member Erin Willett.

Working over the weekend, The Pride Network created a Facebook event and invited 500 people to attend. "By Sunday night, over 2,500 people were invited…people really wanted to raise awareness of this issue. We make Facebook groups for events all the time," Fuscarino said. "It is the first time we ever exceeded the attendance that was reported on the Facebook event." The event showed that 314 people said that they would be attending. The Provost also sent out an e-mail to the faculty after he saw a press release from The Pride Network.

"This is not just another event though, this is a vigil that is very near and dear to a lot of people," Fuscarino said.

During the vigil, the microphone was opened up to the Hofstra community to share their stories. "We had individuals come out for the first time, we heard stories of students being bullied in school and how they were constantly taunted," Fuscarino said. Faculty members offered their support to students who needed it.

"I have a lot of friends who struggled with coming out in high school, and when they did I was so proud. I wanted to come and support them," said student Leonora Fleming. "I think the vigil was powerful. I was brought to tears many times, it definitely moved me." 

(Sean M. Gates/The Chronicle)

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