REDLANDS - University of Redlands sophomore Danielle Hillyer spent most of Friday trying to make sense of the mass slayings in Connecticut.
In the midst of finals, Hillyer, 19, was struggling to do so.
"I saw the courage of the teachers who tried to help the kids," she said. "They have inspired me to be strong. It is still tough to see."
Hillyer was one of about 50 students to attend an impromptu candlelight vigil Friday night in the university's chapel.
University chaplain John Walsh conducted a quiet but emotional session.
"Tonight we want to be one with that community and to be part of that family," Walsh said. "We want them to know that a thousand miles away here in Southern California that we care and know what has happened."
Candles were distributed, lit and in the end raised in the air in memory of the victims, many of whom were children.
"I think it is important to gather a family and think of, remember and pray for them," Walsh said. "We want to be there for them as much as possible."
Having a candlelight vigil was a last-minute decision. A notice was sent out to students around 5 p.m.
"We felt it was important," Walsh said. "Even if just two or three people showed up, it was important to light the candles and to be part of the community."
The group stood in silence for several minutes. Walsh provided inspirational words when he could.
"What do I say? I don't think anyone understands," Walsh said. "I will tell people life is short, sometimes shorter that you expect. Live life and tell the people in your life that you love them."
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