HARRISONBURG — Micah Hurst has one question — “When will it stop?”
Hurst, a pastoral intern at Eastern Mennonite University, was one of about 30 people who came to the school’s Campus Center on Thursday to hold a prayer and candlelight vigil for victims of a shooting last week in Hesston, Kan.
Three people were killed and 14 wounded during a shooting at an Excel Industries building by a former Excel employee on Feb. 25. The man was later killed by police.
Hurst, who graduated from Hesston College and whose wife is from the town, said he feels helpless when he hears about mass shootings.
“I’m getting frustrated with this is not an unusual occurrence,” Hurst said. “We should be able to do something.”
Ken L. Nafziger, vice president of student life at EMU, said a lot of the school’s students are from Hesston or transferred from Hesston College, which is near the Excel building in the Kansas town.
“It has a lot of impact on both our communities,” Nafziger said. “[We] felt it would be a good opportunity to … support our students who are here from Hesston or have connections to Hesston.”
Hesston College, a two-year Mennonite school, is a sister school of EMU, with many students transferring to the university to earn a bachelor’s degree. Hesston College was locked down during the shooting. A choir from the school is set to perform in Harrisonburg over the weekend.
At Thursday’s vigil, Students sang hymns and prayed before lighting candles for the victims.
“Violence will not prevail in our communities,” said Brian Martin Burkholder, EMU’s pastor. “And peace will endure.”
Courtney Unruh, a senior at EMU, is from Hesston and said her sister goes to school across the street from the Excel building.
“Hesston is the place I’ve called home my entire life,” Unruh said. “I found myself in a lot of fear on Thursday.”
Nafziger said what happened in Hesston could happen anywhere, and people should be prepared.
“We can’t deny that it could potentially happen in Park View right next to EMU,” Nafziger said. “We can’t say that it can’t happen here. We like to think it couldn’t. We no longer can act as if it couldn’t.”
Reprinted with permission from the Mar. 6, 2016 issue of the Daily News-Record.