Hundreds filled the football stadium at Poway High School Monday to continue a community healing effort that began just moments after a gunman shot one dead and injured three others Saturday at the Chabad of Poway.
Jewish community leaders, civic leaders from Poway and surrounding cities, and faith leaders of several creeds led the vigil, each calling for, in their own unique way, unwavering love and support across community lines.
The vigil began with a Hebrew song that promises the coming of peace followed by a show of appreciation for law enforcement and first responders, and ended with a chorus of thousands singing “This Land is Your Land.”
Poway Mayor Steve Vaus’s first remark after taking the stage was simply, “wow.”
Vaus, donning his usual cowboy hat, leaned on the side of the podium and peered out into the crowd.
“You are beautiful,” he said. “You really are. Turn around and look at this crowd. You’re something else.”
An absolutely packed Poway High School vigil after this weekend’s tragic synagogue shooting. With people still coming in. All seats filled. Watch at @nbcsandiego —> https://t.co/0KEebpuqbn pic.twitter.com/gWqq5GbiaU— Danny Freeman (@DannyEFreeman) April 30, 2019
Vaus said he felt like his arms had grown longer over the last 24 hours, “because I’ve been trying to wrap them around all of you.”
And as he's tried to do so, he said he felt teh arms of the community and the Chabad of Poway reaching back toward him.
Vaus said that within hours after the shooting he had received calls from Washington D.C, Sacramento, and the San Diego Mayor’s office asking what, if any, help the city and community needed.
Just a few hours before the vigil, a funeral service was held for Lori Gilbert Kaye, a 60-year-old wife, mother, and pillar in San Diego’s Jewish community.
At the end of the service, Chabad of Poway Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein said the congregation would continue to work to make the world a better place and will continue to hold services in the face of danger like the one that visited the temple on Saturday.
The vigil that followed offered the community an opportunity to honor Kaye's heroism -- she was shot after stepping in between the gunman and Rabbi Goldstein -- and also gave the people of Poway a gathering point so that they could begin to heal with the help of one another.
San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore said the showing of support was a sign of the community’s strength and heroism in the face of hate.
“We stand united. Being here shows we are not going to allow a hateful act dictate our way of life. The best you can do is not to live in fear. Remain vigilant and work with law enforcement,” Gore said.
San Diego Police Chief David Nisleit echoed the sheriff’s sentiment, saying “We’re truly not being defeated by evil because we’re out here as a community showing strength.”
Both Gore and Nisleit praised county law enforcement for their ability to work together in response to the shooting and other tragedies in the community.
“I’m just glad that it wasn’t worse,” Nisleit said.