As the wind gently blew across Ho Plaza on Wednesday, it carried the voices of people sharing their connections to Sri Lanka and the people whose lives were lost on Easter Sunday. Students from all different backgrounds, ages and disciplines faced each other in a wide circle, candles given out by the organizers in hand.
The vigil began with a moment of silence, after which Amanda Pathmanathan ’19 introduced Ishini Gammanpila ’22, a student born in Sri Lanka who grew up under the country’s civil war until the age of nine.
“I knew what it was like to live with a sense of anticipation,” Gammanpila said as she described the nature of the war while she was growing up, living in constant fear that tragedy could potentially happen.
“I didn’t know how to react,” Gammanpila said when describing her thoughts after hearing about the attack. “It’s as if all these horrible things from the past came rushing back.”
She then read the eulogy of an 11-year-old boy who had been killed in the bombings, describing the intelligence, wit and character that he had possessed.
The vigil continued with students sharing the stories of those who had lost someone within the bombings and eulogies of individuals who had died.
“To be perfectly honest maybe like some people here, I can’t truly grasp or fathom the amount of pain and hurt the victims are feeling right now especially on an individual level,” Dylan Ratnarajah ’21 said. Ratnarajah said that he had attended one of the churches that was bombed in the attack.
“As a Sri Lankan Christian and someone who was just there in that same buffet room only just a couple of months ago, I am devastated for my country,” he said.
Students not only highlighted the effects of the tragedy, but also the history of Sri Lanka’s internal conflict and civil war. Ratnarajah said he feared that people would respond with condemnation and oppression, as the Sri Lanka government has already begun to put more restrictions on Muslim people within the country.
“It’s important to not resort to persecution,” said Ratnarajah. “Our grief is never a call for retribution. Our grief is a call for coexistence.”
He highlighted a point that would be made by other students who spoke, drawing attention to the political and social strife that is present in Sri Lanka.
Aneesa Rupasingha ’19, who spoke after Ratnarajah, called for everyone to recognize the individuality of each of the victims. She continued with a call to recognize the current state of Sri Lanka and its history as well.
“We must also work towards a Sri Lanka where these attacks do not happen,” Rupasingha said. “This cycle of violence has to end.”
The evening continued as Gammanpila read aloud the names of known victims, one after the other, as students stood in silence. The vigil closed as attendees joined together to place their lit candles on a paper laid out in the front, and marked it by placing their painted hands on it to create prints.