A vigil was held in downtown State College Monday afternoon for the victims of last week's mass shooting at P.J. Harrigan's and at a home near the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in State College. More than 50 people attended, bundled against the cold, to honor those affected by the tragedy.
At the Allen Street gates in downtown State College, Ben Wideman, campus pastor for 3rd Way Collective at Penn State, spoke to a group of more than 50 local residents and Penn State Students.
“We enter into silence today, remembering the employees of P.J. Harrigan’s,” Wideman said, into a microphone. “We remember the first responders of law enforcement and emergency services.”
The crowd listened quietly as he called for a moment of silence for each shooting victim, in turn.
Some in the crowd held small white candles during the vigil. A few held homemade signs with slogans like “What will you do about gun violence?” and “Enough is Enough.” Many of their faces wore expressions of sadness.
Reverend Carol Thomas Cissel, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in State College, called for the group to come together and hold hands as she offered a prayer.
“The violent loss of our friends and neighbors is all but unbearable,” she said into the microphone. “And so, God, we come today asking. Asking you to help us fathom that which is unfathomable.”
And Thomas Cissel did, in fact, lose one of her neighbors. She knew George McCormick, who was killed when the shooter broke into his home on Tussey Lane.
“I can tell you he was kind,” Cissel said. “I can tell you he had a great laugh. He was really vibrant, for somebody 80-something years old. He’s one of the first people I met when I moved to State College in 2017. I lived at 730 Tussey Lane. He lived at 748. So it just feels really, really close to home. He was a lovely man.”
Cissel said McCormick’s murder, in his house just yards away from the Unitarian Church, is weighing on her congregation.
“When we had services on Sunday, it was just subdued,” she said. “There’s a lot of heaviness is what it feels like. And “How is it happening here?” is what I keep hearing from people. I can’t believe it happened here. How is it happening here?”