Hundreds Pack OSU Amphitheater To Cry, Pray For Parade Crash Victims
STILLWATER, Oklahoma -
With candles lit and hearts on fire, students at Oklahoma State University leaned on each other for support on Sunday night.
The church of Christ University Center in Stillwater organized a vigil service on the OSU campus. Hundreds of mourners packed the Student Union amphitheater to sing together and pray for the victims of Saturday’s horrific homecoming parade tragedy.
Led by campus ministers Monty Daffern and Matt Mills, the COCUC extended an invitation to all campus ministries, faiths, students and community members in Stillwater.
And they came in droves, broken, confused and in need of some "OSU family" time.
On Saturday, four people were killed as a car plowed through a barricade and into the crowd of spectators celebrating the annual "Sea of Orange" parade. An additional 46 people were injured, some still fighting for their lives in hospitals around the state.
Of those who were killed, an OSU professor emeritus, a former OSU employee, a 2-year-old son of a university student, and a Central Oklahoma MBA student visiting Stillwater for the festivities.
The COCUC said the vigil would be a place to “cry out, pray and process” the devastation together as a community and “to give a voice to their sorrow and pray for healing for those hurt and families of those lost.
“God is so close to the brokenhearted,” a statement from the group said.
In a Facebook post a couple of hours after the fatal crash, the COCUC said its own student members were shaken up by the crash.
“We had four students very close to the accident, enough that they saw everything,” the post said. “They are OK, but ask you to direct your prayers to the families of those who passed away and those currently injured.”
The COCUC student witnesses said they were “amazed at how quickly and courageously those surrounding the accident responded.”
Special Coverage: OSU Homecoming Tragedy
The campus ministry has held similar events at Theta Pond during past OSU tragedies, counseling and praying with confused and grief-stricken students, some far away from their hometown support system.
The voices of the COCUC also can be heard bouncing off the campus buildings, as they have a tradition of meeting informally to sing praise songs a capella outdoors on campus after their midweek worship services.
This weekend, they joined all faiths and organizations and urged the OSU family to reflect spiritually.
“Please take a moment away from celebrating homecoming to pray together with those around you,” COCUC staff wrote.
Hayley Kiefer, one of the students attending the service, tweeted a photo of the solemn vigil crowd with the caption: "It's not just the university I attend, this is my family."
Other students were equally as moved by the service, saying it affirmed their faith and their place at OSU.
Under a photo she took of glowing candles and a sea of people with heads bowed in the dark, student Cassidi Gooch tweeted, "And this is how I know this is the college for me. Matthew 18:20."
The Bible verse she referenced? It fed the spirits of those who attended, because they don't believe they are alone in their pain and heartbreak.
For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. - Matt. 18:20
10/24/2015 Related Story: Homecoming Heartbreak: Tears Fall For OSU Family Again
Listen as the students sing Amazing Grace together at Sunday's vigil: