About 200 Cal State San Marcos students gathered for a vigil Thursday night in response to a deadly shooting allegedly carried out by one of their classmates at the Chabad of Poway synagogue.
The event called Cougars in Solidarity: Together Against Hate began at 6 p.m. and was meant to be a space where students could hold social discussions and heal from the tragic shooting that left 60-year-old Lori Gilbert-Kaye dead and three others wounded.
The vigil was organized by CSUSM senior Sophie Nadler, president of her school’s Hillel chapter – one of the largest Jewish campus organizations in the nation – along with her friends and classmates, Samantha Caracciolo and Jaelyn Freeman.
“It just hit home way too hard and then I found out it was a student from my school. It was unbelievable and I still can't get over it,” Nadler told NBC 7. “I couldn't really be here without feeling so uncomfortable.”
Freeman said she was terrified to come back to campus following the attack on the Poway synagogue. Though scared, Freeman tried to show her support by sitting in on classes for certain Jewish students who didn’t feel safe to return.
"You walked around and you could feel people were grieving," said Caracciolo. "People were mourning, people were afraid that they walked by him before or seen him before, had classes with him," Caracciolo said.
During the event, students could be heard chanting, “We must love and respect one another. We must love and respect one another.”
A candle-lighting ceremony began with a moment of silence and multi-faith prayers to honor those who’ve died due to hatred, including shooting victim, Lori Gilbert-Kaye.
The students also read out loud 160 names of shooting victims of hate crimes because the victims were not there to say their own name out loud and be remembered.
The students said they have never seen a healing vigil like Thursday’s before and that they never hope to hold one again.
The vigil comes one day after CSUSM rededicated its White Rose Memorial in honor of students who peacefully protested the Nazi regime during the Holocaust, according to the school’s website.
Gilbert-Kaye was among the victims of the Poway synagogue shooting on April 27, which also included 57-year-old Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, 34-year-old Almog Peretz, and 8-year-old Noya Dahan.