Community conveys sympathy, vows support for tsunami victims
A noontime vigil was held Thursday in Memorial Church in honor of those affected by the Dec. 26 tsunami.
Members of the community, including hundreds of students just returning to class this week, grieved for lost lives and grappled with the devastation of the Dec. 26 tsunami at a noontime vigil in Memorial Church on Thursday.
The service was organized by the Office for Religious Life and featured speeches by the Rev. William "Scotty" McLennan and President John Hennessy, and prayers led by the Rev. Joanne Sanders and Rabbi Patricia Karlin-Neumann. A speech by MBA student Lorri Elder reflected the emotion felt throughout the Graduate School of Business (GSB).
The vigil was held to comfort all in the community whose lives have been touched by the catastrophe in Southeast Asia. But one of the more heartfelt moments came when Elder talked about Stanford's most prominent loss, 25-year-old James W. Hsu, a second-year GSB student.
The approximately 800 people in attendance clearly indicated the sadness and confusion felt at a university half a world away from the actual scene of the disaster. Stanford community members and local residents listened as various speakers conveyed messages of hope and of coping.
"I was safely in the air when the tsunami hit," said Elder, who was on the same school-study trip with Hsu, which ended a few weeks ago. "I am now haunted minute by minute by the emotional trauma they had to endure."
Elder's tearful words brought others in the church to tears. However, she also said the Stanford community must come together to support each other and those around the world whose lives have been ruined. Before her, Hennessy and McLennan, dean for religious life, made similar calls for strength and solidarity.
"I believe that remembrance is not enough," Hennessy told the audience. "This is an unfolding tragedy, one that calls us to action."
Talking to a group of Bay Area journalists after the vigil, Hennessy said he has pledged money from his own family to match donations contributed to a fund set up by a student who contacted him after the tsunami struck. And he urged students and colleagues to reach out and find their own way to lend assistance.
Hennessy noted that Thursday's community outpouring resembled the emotional response from a memorial service held on campus after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
McLennan, along with Karlin-Neumann and Sanders, respectively senior associate dean and associate dean for religious life, imparted words that were meant to soothe those who were distraught emotionally and spiritually. "In some way, we're all affected by the tsunami," McLennan said at the start of the vigil.
The earthquake and tsunami ravaged almost a dozen countries, killing more than 150,000 people and severely affecting the lives of approximately 5 million individuals. Many of them are dear to the students and staff at Stanford.
The university is helping Hsu's family plan a memorial service to be held at Stanford in the weeks ahead. Family members were unable to find Hsu during a search of medical facilities in Thailand. Hsu's sister, comforted by her fiancé, was in attendance at Thursday's vigil.
Hsu and three other GSB students had just wrapped up a study trip through Singapore and Thailand and were vacationing on Koh Phi Phi island when the tsunami hit. His classmates survived, including Laura Wales, who remains in a Bangkok hospital with extensive injuries.
"This tragedy is truly what we make of it," Elder said. "We must honor James by coming together."