Elise Powers held a bright yellow sign that read, “Les fleurs et les bougies nous protegent,” or “The candles and the flower will protect us,” Wednesday night outside Posvar.
Powers based the sign off of a video of a little boy sitting on his father’s knee in Paris who is at first afraid of “bad guys.” After the father reassures the boy that people are putting flowers around the city to “fight the guns,” the boy says “the candles and flowers are here to protect us.”
“And [the reporter] says, ‘Do you feel better?’ And he says, ‘Yes, now I do’,” Powers said. “It’s so touching. It’s the only thing in all of this that made me cry.”
Powers was one of about 150 people on Wednesday, Nov. 18, gathered in the Forbes quadrangle between Hillman Library and Posvar Hall with that same message — peace and unity over violence. Pitt administration organized the event, called “Hail to Paris,” to show support for the attacks in Paris over the weekend.
Ron Linden, director of European studies, began the evening by asking everyone to take a moment of silence for all the lives lost, those wounded in the attacks and those who lost family members.
Linden expressed the importance of not falling victim to fear in response to senseless violence and said how we must “come together to express our support and solidarity.”
Ariel Armony, director of the University Center for International Studies, asked the audience to go beyond compassion for victims in Paris and around the world and to take on the responsibility of speaking out for human rights.
“Our worst mistake would be to become used to violence,” Armony said. “We cannot consider bombings, attacks and massacres as routine. They are an attack on all of humanity.”
Although there were recent attacks in Beirut and Baghdad as well, this night focused specifically on the French City of Lights.
Armony urged those gathered not to be silent in the face of senseless acts of brutality.
“It is not a coincidence that we are gathering on the grounds of the University of Pittsburgh,” Armony said. “Higher education institutions must take a stand, must become the flagship of our collective reaction against hate, violence, discrimination and intolerance.”
From the crowd, junior Alessandro Conway said he went to the candlelight vigil for Paris, Baghdad and Beirut on Monday and decided to come again.
“It’s important to be here,” Conway, an economics major said. “[It’s] important to be a part of the effort for peace.”
Monday’s vigil was more of a student-based event, Conway said, while more administration and public officials, including Chancellor Patrick Gallagher, attended this gathering.
Armony called Gallagher an “example of a humane leadership that is so necessary in these trying times.”
While looking out on the crowd of people, Gallagher emphasized unity during struggle.
“We stand together this afternoon in Pittsburgh really for two reasons — one is to share our deep sense of sympathy,” Gallagher said. “But we also stand here today for a different reason. An attack like this occurring in a very specific place is also an attack on all of us.”
Gallagher said the values espoused in France’s national motto, based on liberty, equality and fraternity, are the same values the University and the nation shares.
“The events in Paris remind us of our collective responsibility to speak up and stand up to all senseless acts of violence and hate around the world,” Gallagher said. “Because together, we really are stronger.”