"We had some very, very tense hours here on campus when we didn't know where you all were," an emotional Fr. Jonathan DeFelice, president of the college, told the runners during the candlelight vigil that followed the walk. "We saw a tremendous outpouring of the best of the human spirit after we saw the worst of the human spirit," DeFelice said. "I'm pleading with you tonight to listen to God's voice in your heart. When God says love one another, he's not kidding, he means it. When God says forgive, he's not kidding, he means it."
The vigil and memorial walk attracted about 200 students, faculty, staff and members of the monastic community who lit candles and walked two laps around the quad in honor of the college's own runners and the victims of the tragedy that gripped the nation and the world for five days last week.
The Saint Anselm marathoners carried 26 small American flags, one for each mile of the race, as well as four large American flags, one for each victim. They also carried the banners of each of Boston's major professional sports teams.
"We had students scattered all over the place" in Boston on race day, said Paul Finn, psychology professor and Saint Anselm's track and field and cross-country coach. He said all the students "took care of each other." Police and other first responders, he said, were "appropriately firm and extremely helpful. They did what was right."
The Saint Anselm contingent that was in Boston totaled more than 75, which included runners, those assisting the runners and those who just came out to watch the race.
Susan Gabert, director of campus ministry, told students last night the observance was intended to help students "unpack" the tragedy of last Monday and the tense and deadly events that followed.