A candlelight vigil drew dozens of people to Dunwoody’s Brook Run Park Oct. 3 to remember the victims of the Las Vegas mass shooting.
The nighttime vigil was intended to “quietly pay respect to the people we lost this week and the people who are still suffering after this horrible attack,” said organizer Jill Vogin, who wore a sweater decorated with a U.S. flag shaped like a heart, to the group of at least 40 attendees.
Attendees walked in darkness, some silent, some talking quietly amongst themselves, on a circular path near the park’s gazebo as they pondered the Oct. 1 attack where a suicidal gunman killed at least 59 concertgoers and wounded hundreds more by sniping at them from a hotel tower.
Promoted as silent and apolitical, the vigil had no leader and no speeches aside from Vogin’s brief introductory remarks. Dunwoody City Councilmember John Heneghan was among the candle-bearing attendees; citing the event’s apolitical intent, he declined to comment on his reasons for attending as a public official.
“The candles alone say more than enough,” Heneghan said.
Dunwoody Police Lt. Fidel Espinoza said he attended not only to supervise police protection of the event, but also to honor the victims, who included several law enforcement officials.
“Personally, I’m not surprised Dunwoody would do something like this,” Espinoza said, praising the community for creating an event where “we can put aside our own personal thoughts [and] politics and focus on the victims affected by this tragedy.”
Among the attendees were two candidates for local offices: Joe Hirsch, who is challenging incumbent Pam Tallmadge for the City Council’s District 1 seat, and Sally Harrell, a Democratic former state representative who says she will challenge state Sen. Fran Millar (R-Dunwoody) next year. Neither candidate actively campaigned or announced their presence at the vigil.
“While I know physically it’s not going to accomplish much, mentally, perhaps spiritually, it’s going to make a difference in the community,” Hirsch said of his reason for attending. “This is not an answer, but it’s a response.”
“I need quiet time to reflect,” Harrell said as she held a candle, adding that she has avoided news reports about the shooting. “This is a good way to process grief, to be part of a community without being overwhelmed.”
Vogin said the vigil organizers are an informal group of girlfriends who began planning their own events following the white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Va., in August where a protester was killed by a participant. It is essentially an email list of people who can show up at impromptu events, and now has about 50 participants, including Dunwoody City Councilmember Lynn Deutsch, Vogin said.
The idea of the group was to quickly attend or arrange two types of events, Vogin said: political rallies and vigils to respond to tragedies. Its first activity, she said, was joining a recent Dunwoody rally against President Trump’s pronouncement that he would end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program.