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Candlelight vigil honors 1,000 fallen soldiers

K. Aaron Van Oosterhout | Friday, September 10, 2004

Carrying candles that cast a soft haze over the photographs of the fallen, members of the Notre Dame community held a vigil Thursday night to honor the 1,000 troops killed in Iraq.The attendees ranged in opinion and spanned generations. “I think this is great that so many members of the South Bend community are here on campus,” said Stephanie Gharakhanian, co-organizer of the event. “It shows that we are united in a cause like this.”Though united in outward appearance, the crowd differed in internal motives.Some sought neutrality.”We’re not here to say that the war was right or wrong,” said Gharakhanian. “We’re here to remember those who’ve fought for us. No matter who you are, 1,000 deaths is a tragedy.”Others found injustice.”Well, the vigil is meant to celebrate the lives of those who have died for this war and to add our presence to the hope that there won’t be any more deaths on any side,” said local resident Ellyn Stecker. “I opposed this war from day one, and still do.”Still others supported the war.”I just want to honor the fallen,” said Stephen Little, first-year graduate student. “If it weren’t for them, not only Americans but many people around the world wouldn’t enjoy the freedom they have today.”Mostly, however, participants felt it necessary to pay their respects and pray.”I guess I just feel terrible about everything that’s happened in this war,” explained Dale Gibson, from the Notre Dame class of 1968. “I want to show respect to all the men and women who have given their lives.””People don’t realize, they think [the war]’s so far away,” said Denise Mroczek, a Mishawaka resident. “I wish everyone had good news like us.”Mroczek found out on Thursday that her nephew was not one of the seven marines killed in Fallujah earlier this week. After four days of worrying, her son heard on National Public Radio the names of the deceased, and his cousin, Austin Mroczek, was not included.”We felt joy but it was just devastating that seven other families weren’t as lucky as we were,” she continued. “He’s supposed to come home in two weeks, let’s hope he does.”After expressing their thoughts, the candle-bearers all fell silent and stood in a semi-circle before the Grotto, singing “America, the Beautiful” and “Notre Dame, Our Mother.”Michael Peterson, co-organizer of the vigil, then offered a conclusion.”With that, we extinguish the flames,” he said. “But we do not extinguish the memory, the tragedy.”Attendees of all different opinions then turned to each other, exchanged the sign of peace, and took their separate paths.