In the face of tragedy, Phoenix community offers a message of love

PHOENIX — Jose Guadalupe Conchas stood in front of five candles adorned with black roses, and carefully lit each one as a symbolic tribute to the recent string of disasters, natural and man-made.

The most recent one being the deadly massacre in Las Vegas on Sunday night.

The next night, the United States flag waved at half-staff in the background, while a crowd gathered for a vigil in front of the Arizona State Capitol, offering prayers and messages of hope for victims.

Petra Falcon, executive director of Promise Arizona, said she received a call from the vigil team shortly after news of the shooting in Nevada broke out.

Memorial

The Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico, is often present at vigils held by Promise Arizona. (Photo by Lysandra Marquez/Cronkite News)

“They’re praying for those who lost families, for the homes and the hope of many people. They’re praying especially against hatred,” she said. “The hatred that we have in this country which is manifested in many ways, and in this case it was a person that killed and hurt so many people and families.”

Conchas, also a spokesperson for Promise Arizona, said the event was organized to pay tribute and honor the victims.

“We acknowledge your presence. We acknowledge you’re hurt. We also acknowledge the suffering and the pain that you may be going through right now,” he said. “All the way from Arizona, we hope that you can feel our love and that you can feel that we are thinking about you and that we want to support you in any way possible.”

Promise Arizona organizers said the vigil was intended to heal emotions after difficult and traumatic situations like the Las Vegas shooting, the distress of DACA recipients, and those affected by recent natural disasters, such as the hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico, and the earthquake in Mexico.

Right after sunset, members of Promise Arizona’s vigil team, which formed in the wake of Arizona immigration law SB 1070, banded together, rosaries in hand, while a statue of the Virgin of Guadalupe, patron saint of Mexico, stood before them. Those in attendance were asked to share their worries and concerns.

In Spanish, a woman recounted how she had been traveling by bus earlier that same day and saw a man with a gun get on. She described in detail how she felt her body start to shake in fear, for her life and for those on the bus with her.

Before moving onto prayers and songs, those in attendance were asked to observe a moment of silence in honor of all victims.

“We want to make sure that people know that Promise Arizona, and this community, is all about showing love, showing peace, showing support and protecting our families. That’s really all that it boils down to,” Conchas said.

A woman with the vigil team passed pieces of cardstock around for anyone who wanted to write messages of support. Angelica Peña, who teaches English to refugee students, shared what she wrote.

“I just want for whoever read it to know that there are other people in the community out here who are supporting them and who will stand with them through this time, through all of the pain and suffering,” said Peña, wiping tears from her face.

Conchas believes vigils give communities a space to grieve and process emotions. He offered the following message for those who wish to take further action.

“In this time that we’re hurting, I would encourage every single person to do something. To get involved somehow, to donate. Donate blood, donate clothing, food, water. To do something to help out our fellow citizens, and also help out the world,” he said.

Vigil

Attendees talk about recent events during a vigil held in front of the Arizona State Capitol building. (Photo by Lysandra Marquez/Cronkite News)