He showed up on the patio of Old Main at about 7:15 p.m., carrying a pale blue candle in a small glass jar. There, Dave Andrews placed his newly lit flame next to four others – and a lighter that had been left behind earlier in the night by a stranger – glowing at the foot of the patio’s armillary sphere.
“This light burns for the victims, families and friends of the tragedy in Newtown, CT,” a handwritten note accompanying the candles explained. “If you pass by and it has gone out, please relight it."
Andrews (senior-broadcast journalism) was alone, and he has no personal connection to the shooting that killed at least two dozen people, including 20 children, earlier in the day at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn.
But he said he still felt “moved” to pay his respects.
“I don’t think you have blood in your body if this doesn’t resonate with you, especially at our age,” Andrews said.
And as time goes on, he said, tragedies like the one in Newtown seem to resonate more and more. Along with much of the Penn State student body, Andrews is part of a generation that has grown up through fatal mass shootings at Columbine High School in 1999, Virginia Tech University in 2007, a Tucson shopping center in 2011 and an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in July, among others.
“It could have been me every time,” Andrews said. “It could have been someone I love every time.”
Penn State spokeswoman Lisa Powers said she was not sure who placed the candles on the patio. The university also lowered the flags on Old Main lawn to half-staff earlier Friday.
"The tragedy in Connecticut reminds us all to say a prayer of thanks for the safety of our own families as we grieve for those who have lost a child, a colleague or a friend in the unexplainable events of this morning's shootings,” Powers wrote in an email. “Our hearts go out to the entire community of Newtown. It is simply heartbreaking.”
Andrews said he and his peers have an important role to play in how the nation responds – especially those in university settings where there’s a wealth of knowledge and multiple resources for understanding the factors at play.
“Whatever may come from this – whether it’s politics, whether it’s policies, you know, whatever it is – we are some of the most vital people in making those decisions [and] finding the best change that needs to be made to prevent this,” he said. “And we have to hold ourselves accountable because … we are the most vital people to prevent this from happening again in whatever way, shape or form that may be.”
Check collegian.psu.edu for more updates.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.