Members of the Shippensburg community stood hand-in-hand Thursday night to show solidarity as “one community” following a shooting that rocked the community.
The crowd gathered to come together as one community following a “challenging” few weeks.
SU Student Government Association President Aven Bittinger gave a brief welcome to the crowd of almost 100 people, standing bundled in jackets on the cold fall night.
After Bittinger, United Campus Ministry Rev. Jan Bye offered a prayer for the crowd, citing the concern about the complexities and unexpected situations that the community has faced.
Council of Trustees member Andrew Alosi shared his unique perspective on the “challenging” past few weeks for the university and community.
Alosi grew up in Shippensburg, graduating from Shippensburg Area Senior High School, and then SU in 2006. He continues to live in Shippensburg with his family.
“It is interesting, though, how a crisis can refocus our priorities and our values,” he said. “All of us gather to stand up… to stand up against any and all forms of violence and prejudice, bigotry and hate. It is not welcome here, ever.”
He left the crowd with words of encouragement.
“As we work together to heal our wounds, I can see a bright future on the horizon. A future of understanding, acceptance and diversity. I see a future of great things that will make us stronger as a university and stronger as a community,” Alosi said.
Shippensburg Township Manager Steve Oldt reassured the attendees of the safety of Shippensburg.
“This is a safe community. Regardless of what people may think of the recent incident. Unfortunately, those are things that are happening all over our communities,” he said.
Over 3,000 students live off campus in Shippensburg Township, according to Oldt.
“We do everything we can, and our first priority in Shippensburg township is the safety of all of the students and the safety of everything that happens in Shippensburg Township,” Oldt said.
Stephanie Jirard, SU professor of criminal justice offered words of inspiration to the crowd.
“The great power of a community comes from the place where we carry each other within us,” Jirard said. “Through triumph and tragedy, together all of us at Ship are formed by our collective experiences.”
She added sometimes the community is not perfect because humanity is not perfect.
Jirard stressed the idea of the “Ship Family,” instructing members of the crowd — and to those they did not know — to turn to each other and say, “I am your Ship brother and I am your Ship Sister.”
“Now is the time that we come together in all forms that the Ship family exists,” Jirard said.
Shippensburg Borough Mayor Kathy Coy encouraged attendees to hold each other up with compassion and grace.
“We cannot classify ourselves with race, religion or sexuality. We are of the human race. It is that simple,” Coy said.
SU President Laurie Carter began her portion of the program by thanking those who attended the event before addressing the events of the last few weeks.
“While this event was born out of the difficult and tragic events we experienced over the last few weeks, it also marks the way we must move forward. United against bigotry, hatred and violence,” Carter said.
Carter shared her gratitude for the support of Coy and Oldt, who she said stood with SU.
Carter questioned how the community moves forward after difficult events, offering some of the university’s solutions.
“We will continue to assess what occurred and how we communicated and how to improve processes should we face another crisis,” Carter said. “We will use that information to create the future we desire. The safety and security of our community will always be a priority.”
Carter also said the university has “engaged a recognized expert” to lead in the process, as well as beginning a search for two additional counselors to join the counseling team.
“We are also aware that the anxiety level of our students has run higher than usual as a result of these recent issues,” Carter said.
Bittinger took to the microphone once again to close the program by offering words of reassurance, saying recent events are not what defines Shippensburg as a community.
“This is what defines us,” he said. “We as a community are going to move forward.”