‘We come with sadness’: Vigil for victims of gun violence ahead of Saturday’s march

WASHINGTON — At the Washington National Cathedral, area residents joined the many visitors who are in town for Saturday’s March For Our Lives.

Volunteers handed out more than 2,000 candles to attendees. Once lit, those candles illuminated the front steps of the National Cathedral in Northwest D.C. during a moment of silence for the victims of gun violence.

Rev. Jan Naylor Cope said the Cathedral was created by an act of Congress to be a church for national purposes, and with this service and vigil ahead of the march, it is living up to its name.

“We gather the nation tonight on one of the most critical issues of our day,” Cope, provost of the Cathedral, said.

During the interfaith service, church leaders from all over the nation took to the podium to pray for those attending and to echo the call from the organizers of the march for an end to gun violence.

“We come with sadness, as we grieve so much loss of life, so much senseless death, so much needless suffering,” Rev. Randy Hollerith, dean of the Cathedral, told the crowd.

Among the speakers was Philip Schentrup, father of 16-year-old Carmen Schentrup, who was killed in last month’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

“She was going to change the world,” Schentrup said, as he remembered his daughter.

Tianna Vanspriell, from Harford County, Maryland, brought her family to the event so she said they could remember the children who were victims of the recent mass shootings and pray for their families.

“I thought it was good for the kids to experience that and to be part of the solidarity of the movement,” Vanspriell said.

Her daughter, 14-year-old Elsa Vanspriell, said she is at the service to pray for the safety of everyone at the march on Saturday.

Kathleen Wind, of Reston, Virginia, felt she needed to join the many others who have come to D.C. for this event. “This is just an extremely important placed to be tonight, to pray and be with all of these students that are coming into town,” Wind said.

Before the doors opened, 17-year-old Sarah Brown, a high school student from Fort Myers, Florida, recruited attendees to pick up pieces of sidewalk chalk and help her write the names of victims of gun violence on the sidewalks leading up to the Cathedral.

Brown was behind a similar piece of work at her high school after the Parkland shooting.

“The vigil itself, as well as this piece, is about awareness and remembrance, and it’s a memorial for the victims,” she said.

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