After a tumultuous month with hundreds killed in hurricanes, earthquakes and a mass shooting, Wake Forest University students and personnel took to campus to grieve together Wednesday.
Many looped around Hearn Plaza in contemplation before adorning the “peace pole,” erected in front of Reynolda Hall, with colorful slivers of fabric as part of a Jewish mourning tradition.
“It’s a mosaic, creating something beautiful out of grief,” the university’s Rev. K. Monet Rice-Saloh said. “Some are here for Vegas or the hurricanes or DACA or their grandma’s sick. The No. 1 reason is so they don’t feel alone.”
The toll of tragedies has left hearts heavy across the country, with the most recent disaster a mass shooting at a Las Vegas country-music concert that killed 58 people and injured more than 500.
The peace pole was intended to be an outlet for the grief, anger, confusion and other emotions people may be feeling in the wake of devastation, University Chaplain Tim Auman said.
Scrawled along the pole — which was built out of a repurposed wooden bed frame from one of the dorms — were the words, “May peace prevail on Earth” in different languages.
“We wanted to do something tangible,” Auman said. “It seems simple, fabric on a peace pole, but it’s participatory. There’s something life-giving about gathering and grieving as a community.”
Strips of fabric of every color of the rainbow were tied to the post by midday.
The different colors can represent diversity in cultures, religion, emotions or any other meaning people apply to them personally, Auman said.
Senior Millie Donoghue said she was intentional in choosing a pink fabric for the color’s gentle, kind and healing tone. Her friend, junior Daniella Feijoo, chose blue as a symbol of love.
“Sometimes I feel a little helpless,” Feijoo said. “The shooting is something we feel like we can prevent as a society, yet it hurt so many.”
A moment of silence was held at noon, followed by music and prayers of healing and peace from different religions.
“Obviously, there’s a lot going on, but as students, it can be hard to follow all the news and process it,” Donoghue said. “We recognize the hardships many of our classmates and mentors face because of the hurricanes and the shooting.”
Auman said Wednesday’s three-hour vigil was a miniature version of a pilgrimage, in a way, for people to reflect and process.
Matt Clifford, the associate dean of students for student conduct, tied six ribbons around the pole: one for himself and his wife, Joanne, and for each of his children: Peyton, 9; Sam, 9; Adha, 9; and Luke, 8.
While his kids are still too young to fully comprehend the magnitude of the country’s recent tragedies, Clifford said it’s the worst of times that reveals the best in people.
The people who risked their lives to bring water to Puerto Rico or who responded to Las Vegas are the shining lights in a sometimes dark world, he said, and give him hope for the future.
“There’s a lot of hurt in the world in our own community and beyond, but we have to come together even with division and discord,” Clifford said. “It’s easy to see suffering, but we can’t forget that glimmer of humanity bringing positivity to the world.”