Community gathers to offer comfort and support to Japanese
Students at a vigil for Japan. (Vanderbilt University/Mary Donaldson)
Japanese Consul General Hiroshi Sato told those gathered March 18, when he first heard Vanderbilt would hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of the recent earthquake and tsunami in his country, “I never imagined so many students and members of the local community” would join in.
A diverse group of approximately 200 sang, prayed, listened to music and lit candles in memory of those lost in the devastation and in solidarity with those struggling in its aftermath.
Sato said he has been touched by the many letters, phone calls and e-mail messages he has received since the disasters struck March 11. Those expressions of caring and the outpouring of support demonstrated by the vigil, he said, “will give the people of Japan the strength they need in these difficult times.”
During the hour-long service, conducted in both English and Japanese, representatives of the student body, administration and faculty offered words of solace to those who have family and friends affected by the disasters.
“We all share in this great moment of suffering and loss and stand ready to assist Japan in any way we can,” Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Richard McCarty said. “This is an ongoing tragedy … and I want to pledge to you,” he told the consul general, “we will be with you every step of the way.”
Also speaking during the service, which was organized by the Asian American Student Association, were Vanderbilt Interfaith Council president Eric Walk, Melissa O’Neill from Vanderbilt Student Government, and James Auer, director of U.S. Japan Studies and Cooperation at Vanderbilt.
Others spoke extemporaneously of their feelings, including a Florida man who was traveling in Nashville with his wife and daughter, a woman who said she was from Germany and one young woman, speaking in Japanese, who said her grandmother is still missing in the devastation.
Messages from Nashville Mayor Karl Dean and Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam were also shared.
Among the sponsors of the event were the Asian American Christian Fellowship, Korean Undergraduate Students, the Chinese Student Association, Masala-SACE and Hillel.
Contact: Vanderbilt News Service, (615) 322-NEWS