Members of the Knox and Galesburg communities gathered on Sunday for a day of community service and a candlelight vigil to commemorate the first anniversary of the Tree of Life massacre.
Emily Schroeder, sophomore and President of the Knox Jewish Club, led the community service aspect of the day of remembrance. Schroeder and one other student planted grape hyacinth bulbs across the street from the H.O.P.E Center.
Lily Lauver, junior, and Monica Corsaro, Director of Spiritual Life, led the candlelight vigil Sunday evening alongside David Amor and Penny Schine Gold, prominent members of the Jewish community in Galesburg.
At the vigil, Lauver, Corsaro and Gold read the names of the 11 victims of the shooting, the 23rd Psalm, a meditation and a responsive reading. Members of the Galesburg community and Knox staff lit candles and participated in a moment of silence in remembrance of the tragedy.
Lauver’s hometown is Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where the shooting occurred. She heard that the Tree of Life Synagogue was planning a day of service in remembrance of the massacre and saw an opportunity for the Knox community to participate in the remembrance of the victims.
Lauver reached out to Schroeder and Corsaro with the idea to hold similar events on the anniversary of the Tree of Life shooting. Schroeder and Corsaro agreed that this was an important opportunity for the Knox community to show support for the Tree of Life Synagogue.
“The idea was that we would stand in solidarity with them,” Schroeder said.
Schroeder and Lauver both have connections to the shooting. Lauver’s mother was taking a painting class a few blocks from the synagogue when the shooting happened, and has friends who attended the synagogue. Schroeder has friends of friends who went to the synagogue.
Lauver recalled finding out about the shooting through messages from her mother and social media as it was unfolding. She said her confusion about what was happening turned to disbelief as she realized that the shooting was an act of hate on the Jewish community.
In the aftermath of the shooting, Lauver had a difficult time coping with what had happened while she was away from home.
“It felt like everyone at home was hurting, and so it was hard to not be home,” Lauver said.
Schroeder felt alone after the shooting. She was a month into her freshman year and hadn’t yet connected with the Jewish community at Knox and in Galesburg.
“It was really frightening because I did not know the Galesburg community that well, and I didn’t know, ‘Is it even safe for me to be Jewish here?’” Schroeder said.
Lauver and Schroeder both recall how the candlelight vigil held shortly after the shooting last year gave them hope and instilled a sense of community. They hoped the events on Sunday would bring a similar sense on the one year anniversary of the shooting.