Thursday, January 23, 2014
The temperature was 9F. I'm surprised so many people came.
Every inch of my skin was cold before I arrived at the center of campus. My thighs were frozen as I walked. I didn't expect to see many people there in such weather, but it was like an exodus. People kept joining out of nowhere. Everyone walking in the same direction. No one said anything.
When I decided to go, I found a candle on my bookshelf, and tested it, but it was too old and the rim was too high and the wick was too short. I took out a knife and cut out the wax around the wick, so I could pull it out and light it, and then set the flame back inside. I found had no k'yawe a:we, so I took a pouch of tobacco I'd been given as a gift. Not my own tribe's tradition, but an offering close enough.
There were so many of us, so many more than I expected: probably a thousand or more, that even standing apart, I didn't feel the cold. I took off my gloves and lit the candle I'd brought.
They sang on the steps of Hovde, the administration building, in front of the engineering fountain. Probably Christian songs. I couldn't hear. But that's okay. So many people stood together. The specifics didn't matter.
When it was over, I sprinkled the tobacco over the flame. I made a fist and breathed in the breath of those who were there who couldn't be seen, like I was taught to do by tradition, even if my offering was wrong.
The provost said it was over. Told us good night. And thank you. And the people dispersed. I walked to the electrical engineering building. EE was still surrounded by police. Flashing red and blue lights. I walked as close as I dared to one of the other entrances, and saw even there, someone stood guard inside.
So I approached a planter, and set my candle down there on its cement rim. And left.
A black woman with big hair approached me with a white man with a bigger camera.
"I saw you," she said, "with the candle. What did you think of the vigil?"
"It was... nice."
"Did you know either—"
"No," I said.
I walked away.
I broke deshkwi. When we Zuni aren't supposed to buy or sell. I stopped at a bar on the way home and ordered several beers after another. Before coming back home and posting this.
Is it a big deal? Maybe it isn't a big deal. Compared to other things. Maybe it isn't. Lots of other, much bigger atrocities happen. Every day. But maybe it should be a big deal. Maybe it should be a big deal. If we don't make it a big deal, what does that mean? It deserves to be a big deal.
Not because I condemn the shooter. Not because it's another shooting on a college campus in America. Not because it's just the latest news story.
Because the world deserves a little less hopelessness.
Because it was so much warmer, standing there, than I expected, in the middle of the freezing cold. All of us standing, come together, for the sake of someone so many of us didn't know. Because even in the cold, cold, dark of the night, in the icy snow, in the below-freezing temperature, so many people came, and stayed, and stood.
So somehow, despite the last 24 hours, I feel a little bit more hopeful. So I say, Andrew, you didn't die in vain.
And you definitely
didn't die alone.